Never Drink from Streams or Lakes
Cool, clear mountain streams may appear clean and safe, but they often harbor a hidden danger. Giardia (gee-ar-dee-ah) lamblia, is a microscopic, single celled animal protected by an outer shell called a cyst. If ingested it can cause a disease known as giardiasis. Giardiasis is not fatal but it can cause great discomfort. All water should be considered potentially contaminated because even contaminated water may look, smell, and taste clean.
Most water becomes contaminated by infected animals that live nearby. Beavers and muskrats are easily infected with Giardia and, once infected, if they release fecal material in or near water, it becomes contaminated. Many hundred million cysts may be shed at one time by one animal, and it takes as few as ten cysts to cause an infection.
Many National Forests allow sheep and cattle grazing. These animals may be a short, unseen distance up stream and will carry contaminents into the water you are about to drink.
Signs & Symptoms
Chronic symptoms will appear from seven to ten days after ingesting the cysts. They include: Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, increased gas, bloating, fatigue, and sometimes weight loss due to nausea and loss of appetite. These symptoms last for several days only and the body can naturally rid itself of the parasite in one to two months. However, for people with weakened immune systems the body often cannot rid itself of the parasite without medical treatment. There are several treatments that a physician can prescribe that can kill Giardia within one or two weeks.
Remember: Always treat the water you plan to drink.