Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-(


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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/17/2014 21:40:29 MDT Print View

On my last trip I'm pretty sure I caught Giardia.

I'm working with the doc now to get samples for testing to figure out what I have.

I remember exactly how it happened too! I usually treat water before I prepare food. So even if I boil it , it's still treated before hand. Double protection.

However, I've been skipping the boiling process and just waiting until the water was close to boiling. For Giardia, you have to wait for the water to boil for five minutes... Well, I forgot to treat it! I realized after I ate the meal. Ug.

I think the main issue is that it was the beginning of the season so I wasn't used to my normal routine.

Symptoms hit about 1.5 weeks after I got back to civilization. I was planning another trip and would have been in the woods by now :-(

It's miserable to do anything. Don't want to walk around. Don't want to do any exercise. Don't want to eat. Don't want to go to the gym.

... so be careful out there!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/17/2014 21:53:58 MDT Print View

"For Giardia, you have to wait for the water to boil for five minutes"

That is a common myth.

The kill temperature for Giardia lamblia is about 175*F.

The real problem is that too many people are lax about handling raw water and getting raw water on hands, etc.

They say that the best lessons are learned the hard way.

--B.G.--

Brian Mix
(Aggro) - M

Locale: Western slope, Sierra Nevada
Re: Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/17/2014 22:06:51 MDT Print View

If I boil for treatment which is rare, I heat until bubbles form on the bottom of the pot and call it good. Never had a problem. I'm ----><----- this close to stopping treating my water when I *feel* it would be safe to not.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
altitude. on 04/17/2014 22:19:34 MDT Print View

To be fair, I was at a lower altitude, and the water was brownish... like tea color.

This was at about 4000 feet. So higher probability of Giardia.

Still not fun!

Philip Tschersich
(Philip.AK) - F

Locale: Kodiak Alaska
Altitude on 04/17/2014 22:45:57 MDT Print View

What does the altitude have to do with it, if I may ask? Something to do with the boiling point of water?

I have consumed hundreds (thousands?) of gallons of untreated water from throughout Southwest Alaska over the course of 25 years with no issues. I'm hoping I'm just a carrier (20-25% of infected people are asymptomatic). :^)

I believe you that's it's not fun. All the folks describing the symptoms don't have much good to relate.

Edited by Philip.AK on 04/17/2014 22:47:11 MDT.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Brownish water, tea color on 04/17/2014 23:00:49 MDT Print View

I wonder how well the katadyn hiker pro pump filter will do to clear up the brown tea color. I know katadyn does not remove giardia, just thinking about color filtration.

I also double treat for paranoia. Ceramic filter then those clorine bleach tablets.

Once my so called reliable water source was not a flowing stream in june, instead it was 2 inch deep of brown mosquito swarm. I opted for dehydration instead. Luckily I ran into an undocumented water trickle off a boulder with green algae. No bugs. I took that and 2x treated it. Still looked green hue like Mountain Dew or Midori Sour. I had brief stomach cramps but no issues. Cramps could have been from the algae water or the chlorine tablets.

Hope you recover soon. Please update us on your lab results and your doctor's advice.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Altitude on 04/17/2014 23:01:20 MDT Print View

"What does the altitude have to do with it, if I may ask? Something to do with the boiling point of water?"

Of course. The boiling point of water is around 212*F at sea level, then it lowers as the elevation gets higher. The boiling point of water is around 175*F at 19,500 feet, or about. If the kill temperature of Giardia is 175*F, then bringing it to a full boil will kill it anywhere up to around 19,500 feet.

In California, anywhere below 4000 feet is a good place to find lots of cattle or similar stock. Drinking the water down there is risky, so you probably want to be very thorough with water treatment.

The percentage of people who are asymptomatic will vary in most estimates. I've seen as high as 50%. Or it may be that some people just don't recognize some marginal symptoms.

I think that I would just rather avoid it altogether.

--B.G.--

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/17/2014 23:03:31 MDT Print View

>"The kill temperature for Giardia lamblia is about 175*F."

+1 on Bob's data on pasteurization of water.

If you read an NPS publication, someone has seemingly surveyed everything ever written and taken THE most conservative approach, sometimes added more time and then published that. So they are people saying idiotic things like boil for 5 minutes, boil for 10 minutes, vigorously boil for 15 minutes, etc.

When I've talked to people who actually do plate counts before and after, who study pasteurization of water in the Third World, and who look at WHICH organisms survive, then you get answers of 90C for any time, 80C for a bit, 70C for XX minutes. So, yes, those bubbles that form before anything boils? You're done. If you can let it sit for an afternoon, 140F does it. Which exacts matches health department food-serving regs ("keep hot food hot and keep cold food cold") - long periods at 140F are protective.

There are extremophile organisms that can survive higher temps, but NOT pathological organisms. We're talking about your gut, not a mid-oceanic-ridge volcanic vent in a Nat'l Geo magazine.

>"and the water was brownish"

What was your "treat water before I prepare food" method? If chlorine or iodine, those have their limitations - cold water, too short a time, resistant organisms, and, maybe in this case, organic compounds in the water that react with the halogen. You should be able to smell that characteristic chlorine/iodine smell AFTER the contact period of 10-30 minutes (depending on water temperature). If not, maybe you didn't add enough, or maybe what you added reacted with sediments, tannins, etc, in the water. Your odor threshold is conveniently about 1 ppm halogens in water - the same level above which you are treating the water.

Also consider other pathways - wash your hands, but didn't sanitize them? I know someone who got Giardia not from "drinking" water, but from crossing a stream and getting some in his mouth. Hopefully, you wiped all the marmot poo off your titanium spoon before stirring your grits, so a fecal-oral route doesn't seem obvious, unless a pack animal or another human was around.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/17/2014 23:04:10 MDT Print View

They tell people to boil for 5 minutes because you need a rolling boil to purify but many don't truly understand what a rolling boil is.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Altitude on 04/17/2014 23:07:59 MDT Print View

Curious as to why you suspect giardia instead of crypto? Treatment doesn't work well on crypto, like it does with giardia, so maybe it wasn't your suspect meal at all, but treated water you drank using only AM drops instead of a filter? Just speculating...

As far as altitude, I thought it had more to do with more downstream contamination, than altitude boiling temps...

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Brownish water, tea color on 04/17/2014 23:08:01 MDT Print View

"I wonder how well the katadyn hiker pro pump filter will do to clear up the brown tea color. I know katadyn does not remove giardia, just thinking about color filtration."

The Katadyn filter does 0.3 microns, so that should take out all of the Giardia cysts.

Chlorine bleach may or may not be effective depending on the pH of the water. Chlorine dioxide should be more effective, since it uses a different kill method.

--B.G.--

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/17/2014 23:11:39 MDT Print View

"Hopefully, you wiped all the marmot poo off your titanium spoon before stirring your grits"

Now you've gone and done it. That alarming mental image will haunt me all summer.

--B.G.--

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/17/2014 23:25:21 MDT Print View

>"They tell people to boil for 5 minutes because you need a rolling boil to purify but many don't truly understand what a rolling boil is."

Er, no.

Just no.

You don't.

Boiling is well over the temperature needed to pasteurize drinking water.

If you can't gauge temperature, boiling is a convenient, obvious end point. But bringing the water close to boiling is more than enough.

I don't care what the pamphlet the ranger gave you says. But if you've know of a peer-review journal article with data about infectious organisms living through X degrees but dying at X+5 degrees that differs from the above, I'd love to hear about it.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/18/2014 00:41:29 MDT Print View

You might want to actually wait until get your tests back before jumping to conclusions. There are a lot of things that can cause those symptoms.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/18/2014 01:56:10 MDT Print View

I have heard many times that you need a rolling boil to purify water, which I know is not true, but that is the common belief. The reason they tell you to boil water for 5 minutes is because, as many people believe, bubbles are not sufficient to purify water and you need a vigorous rolling boil. The 5 minute suggestion is meant so a newbie hiker will reliably get to a roiling boil, if they didn't understand what a rolling boil is. Obviously based on this thread you don't need a rolling boil.

Edited by justin_baker on 04/18/2014 01:58:07 MDT.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Re: Re: Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/18/2014 03:18:49 MDT Print View

I can't figure out where this mythical "5 minute rolling boil" comes from. Even the CDC says only 1 minute, and even over 6,500 feet they only go to 3 minutes for recommendations. Both obviously extreme, but hey, it's the CDC, they have to be over-cautious, it's their job.

5 minutes though?! There wouldn't be any water left to drink after it all boiled away. Maybe I should take some classes, or attend some meetings, so I can learn all this mis-information being handed out.

Mike Gunderloy
(ffmike) - M
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/18/2014 04:55:11 MDT Print View

Maybe it comes from vendors of gas cylinders ;)

As for the OP, my sympathies. Whatever the reason, the symptoms are no fun. There are times I wish some of our fine young men in Scouting had more people who've been through a round to talk to. Then maybe they wouldn't do boneheaded stuff like crap next to the stream they're camping by and later wade out into the middle in bare feet and take a drink of the raw water. But boys are invincible at that age...

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/18/2014 05:14:59 MDT Print View

Dave T. is correct. You don't need to boil it. I usually figure anything in the US of A can be treated with a boil. This will not remove other things, though. Chemicals, minerals, toxins can still be present. This will usually result in an almost immediate illness...usually within 24 hours or less.

You CANNOT get sick from yourself. Anything you have is already in you. Anything you do not have is not present in fecal matter, soiled clothing, or anything else you touch or ingest. It cannot happen. Illness is always an external event. (Well, 'cept cancer...)

I suspect that you simply did not wait long enough for the chemical treatment to work. It will take 15min to up to 6 hours depending on the temp.

I have had it, it is absolutly no fun. Good luck at the doctors. Even the cure is no fun. But, that said, I have only had it once in 40+ years of outdoor camping. I am quite sure I simply did not wait long enough.

Chemical treatments and filters are statistical. Even a .03 filter is never guaranteed to keep you safe. It may remove 99.99999% of the bugs, but not 100%. Even if you did things correct, you can still be infected. Most people just assume they are safe, not true. It only takes one... Cells never divide evenly. A cell that is 5 microns may produce two daughter cells: One at 4.99micron, most of the contents, one that only contains a little celluular material and half the nucleous at .01 micron. This is why they are never rated as absolutely, 100%'ly, guaranteed to work...only to four or five "9's".

I never treat and boil. This is a waste of treatment. If I am going to boil water for breakfast, there is no reason to treat it.

spelt !
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/18/2014 07:09:11 MDT Print View

>> What does the altitude have to do with it, if I may ask?

In the lower 48 at least, the higher you go, the less chance there is something pooped upstream.

Owen McMurrey
(OwenM) - F - M

Locale: SE US
Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/18/2014 08:02:07 MDT Print View

I've had giardiasis from drinking directly from a stream when I was in the Boy Scouts ~30yrs ago. The water looked and tasted fine(ha); 'course it turned out that it flowed right through a bunch of cow pastures shortly before. A lot of our wilderness areas in the South are surrounded by, and often drain from, agricultural land. The only safe assumption here is that it's all contaminated.

Pasteurization of water doesn't actually need 175F, it's more like 150, but it has to stay there for several minutes, while higher temps kill giardia faster. From the perspective of someone heating water on a stove or fire, you might as well bring it to a boil, unless you happen to carry a thermometer to verify the actual temp it's reached. I suppose you could stick it in there while it simmers for 6 or 7 minutes at 150F or so just to "prove" that's good enough.
Having had giardiasis, playing it safe really doesn't seem like that much trouble to me, though.