What is Giardia? Symptoms of stomach bug parasite and when to call a doctor

The death of two children, aged five and six, has sparked concern over a giardia outbreak as the youngsters both attended Millstead Primary School in Everton, which is currently dealing with an outbreak of cases of the infection.

The UKHSA has said the causes of the deaths of the two children are unconfirmed, but “unlikely to be due to giardia”, according to the Liverpool Echo.

But millions of parents and families throughout the UK will be looking to prevent a further spread of the nasty stomach bug. takes an in-depth look at what giardia is, how it can be caught, the symptoms and how it can be treated.

What is giardia?

Caused by a small parasite, giardia, or giardiasis, is an infection of the small intestine that can spread rapidly. It is often caught from untreated water, which may contain germs.

Other methods someone may contract giardia is through direct contact with infected people or animals, touching surfaces that have been in contact with infected individuals or animals, drinking or eating contaminated products (for example, an apple washed with contaminated water), or having sex with someone infected with giardia, especially unprotected anal and oral sex.

What are the symptoms of giardia?

According to the NHS, giardiasis is a tumy bug that can cause unpleasant symptoms, that include:

  • watery, often unpleasant-smelling diarrhoea
  • burps that may smell like eggs
  • stomach cramps
  • bloating and gas
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue
  • weight loss

If you have had diarrhoea for more than seven days, or your stool appears bloody, the NHS strongly advises you to ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 directly.

It is also recommended to let your healthcare provider know if you have recently travelled abroad.

How can you treat giardia?

While highly uncomfortable and easy to spread, giardia is easily treatable through antibiotics. The infection is found by doctors sending a fecal matter sample to be tested.

Symptoms are usually expected to stop in about a week from starting treatment, but can sometimes linger.

People from the infected individual’s household may also need to be tested, and it is recommended to stay off work or school for at least two days after symptoms have stopped to prevent any spread of the infection.


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