November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-(
Display Avatars Sort By:
jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Dirtier water boil longer on 04/19/2014 13:53:23 MDT Print View

I think clear and fast flowing is correlated with few parasites.

If you did a survey of many water sources, those that were clear and fast flowing would be more likely to be on some mountain, near the source, less likely to be contaminated. Higher on a mountain there are fewer animals.

Those water sources that are slower and dirtier looking, are more likely to be downstream of animals pooping or whatever.

The parasites in water aren't visible and the fast flow of a stream does not kill parasites.

When I'm on some mountain and the water looks clean and it's fast flowing, I often don't treat it, and have never got sick that I know of. But the Squeeze is so convenient I've been treating more often. Maybe I've just been lucky in the past.

Some article on BPL talked about this.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Re: Re: Dirtier water boil longer on 04/19/2014 14:34:04 MDT Print View

When (or if) backcountry water is safe to drink without treatment has been endlessly debated on these forums.

The key requirement for what I suggested was very low risk water isn't "clear" or "fast-flowing" but "at elevation in a [designated] wilderness area," (e.g. not the Appalachian Trail, or on rangeland); and "collected very near the source," (e.g., I know it's coming out of the ground without crossing human or game trails before the point of collection). Does that describe the water that made you ill?

"Clear" *does* mean the water has no algal or bacterial biofilms. "Fast-flowing" (if close to an underground source) *does* mean the water is likely to be as cold as it was coming out of the ground. It's been a long time since I had a food handler's card, but IIRC, cold temps inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

The risk of waterborne viruses in the American backcountry is virtually zero. And (again, IIRC) the organisms of most concern in backcountry water aren't bacteria, but giardia and cryptosporidium. The CDC says both parasites are spread by fecal matter--water under conditions where I would likely drink it untreated is *visibly* very, very unlikely to be contaminated by human or animal feces.

This isn't about being macho, or laughing in the face of danger, it's about rational risk assessment. It's also about cultivating a philosophical attitude that wild nature, while certainly indifferent to me, is not an actively hostile force I need always protect myself from. For me, an antidote to a "pack your fears" approach to wilderness is worth the (very slight) risk of drinking raw water under particular conditions. Others may make a different choice, of course.

I assume your "1 in a billion chance" remark was meant hyperbolically, since the best filters still won't get the last one out of every billion organisms in a contaminated source. And you'd have to drink "1 in a billion chance" raw water every waking second of your life to have even odds of catching anything.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Dirtier water boil longer on 04/19/2014 17:03:37 MDT Print View

"I think it also needs pointing out that IF the water is very dirty the boiling times suggested might not be enough.

"If the Virus or bacteria is coated in debris it can act as pretty effective insulator."

Water is an excellent conductor of heat. If the debris is permeable to water (like slime) it's going to be as hot as the water. As long as your water doesn't have massive floaters, you'll be fine.

What sort of hypothetical "insulator" are you imagining?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Dirtier water boil longer on 04/19/2014 17:12:50 MDT Print View

"David Thomas's points about UV purification up-thread imply water within the first few inches of the surface of an alpine lake should also be safe."

Has been my SOP for years when taking water from high altitude lakes in the Sierra. No problems so far. That said, there are high altitude lakes where horse packers have let their horses crap on the lake shore, and there I treat just to be sure. I don't know if horse manure is as pathogenic as cow manure, but I prefer prudence over being a guinea pig.

"I always carry an effective method of treatment, but if conditions suggest the water is very unlikely to be contaminated, I prefer not to treat."

+1 at the risk of reigniting The Great Rockwell Flame War. ;0)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Dirtier water boil longer on 04/19/2014 17:17:46 MDT Print View

"you really have absolutely no idea just by looking at the water if it's good or bad."

True enough, but people can and do successfully assess the potablity of water by evaluating the surroundings.

Mark S
(gixer) - F
Some good points. on 04/19/2014 17:20:15 MDT Print View

Some good points.

While i agree a good filters isn't an absolute guarantee i don't think anyone could argue it doesn't dramatically reduce the risk.

Elevation may reduce the risk, if water rat has been running past the area your collecting water though, if a dead bird is a few meters upstream, dead fox, rabbit, they could even be frozen and defrosting upstream as you're drinking.

I've even seen campers swimming in mountain top lakes and streams, i've found evidence of people urinating into high streams and defecating.

I do agree that if given a choice i would prefer to drink untreated water from a fast flowing stream, rather than a muddy puddle, i personally believe from my personal experiences that the risks are higher than you believe they are.

As i say though unless we as humans experience something first hand we tend to discount logic and others experience, so i do understand.
A girl i used to work with contracted HIV by having unprotected sex, she she's she did it once and didn't push the point about using protection as she felt the experience would be better.
I'm not comparing getting a nasty stomach bug to contracting a deadly, life changing disease, just pointing out that nature doesn't care about what people want or have done before.

Sorry if i come off a bit preachy, that's not my intention, as i say we're all adults and we all carry out own risk assessments continuously.

It's just having been extremely ill from suspected water (yes it was taken from a high source, was clean and fast flowing) and with modern filters being so cheap and easy to use i just think even IF it only slightly reduces the risk it's crazy not to use one.

I respect your philosophy though and have no chance or intention of trying to change your mind, i have my fingers crossed i can get some folks to think twice and research the risks and solutions.

James Couch

Locale: Cascade Mountains
Hygiene on 04/19/2014 22:55:44 MDT Print View

There are a number of studies that indicate that many instances of gastrointestinal illness were as likely (if not more likely) to be caused by poor hygiene as by 'bad' water. It is always amazing to me to see the amount of folks folks who are completely anal about their water treatment routing but don't wash their hands before preparing or eating a meal, or wash their cookware afterwards!

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Hygiene on 04/20/2014 02:34:49 MDT Print View

Jim, I'd be interested in reading those studies if you can list them, and where they might be found.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Hygiene on 04/20/2014 05:53:43 MDT Print View

Well, as far as scientiffically designed studies, I have only seen a few, but they do not count. They were done in hospital's on disease communication/vectors. Most diseases are studied that way.

It is nearly impossible to tell if water is safe to drink or not. Yes, you can evaluate the surrounding area. You can MINIMIZE your risk. Filters only minimize the risk. Chemicals, too. UV, and solar, also. Boiling is perhaps the safest. You are subjected to constant exposure to a lot of different bacteria all day long.

As DK said, I would be interested in any scientific studies and papers, also.

Washing cookwear? Well, I don't really do that either.I rinse it out with wild water, then I dry it out with my dirty bandana. I don't try to get it scubbed bright and clean. It is boiled every 10-14 hours, thats as clean or more so than at home. Bacteria and spores take time to form. Drying it out means most die because water was removed. It will take 24 hours for anything grow on it to the point of making me sick, even if I didn't rinse and dry it and made sure to leave it in a warm, dark place. I have eaten twigs and bugs in my water after boiling. I wouldn't say this is something to worry about. At least I haven't been sick from this yet. But this is not a scintific study by any means.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Hygiene on 04/20/2014 07:41:59 MDT Print View

If you eat out of your pot you don't have to worry about it. Wash it off when done. When youu next use it and heat water in it, it will be disinfect it.

Of course there's your spoon - wash it off so there's no organic matter, then the next time you stir up your hot food in boiling water it will disinfect it.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Water, hygiene and more on 04/21/2014 05:30:23 MDT Print View

One of the very best studies is "Medical risks of wilderness hiking"

In a prospective surveillance study, 334 persons who hiked the Appalachian Trail for at least 7 days (mean [+/- SD] length of hike, 140 +/- 60 days) in 1997 were interviewed...

Diarrhea is the most common illness limiting long-distance hikers. Hikers should purify water routinely, avoiding using untreated surface water. The risk of gastrointestinal illness can also be reduced by maintaining personal hygiene practices and cleaning cookware.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Water, hygiene and more on 04/21/2014 09:52:29 MDT Print View

"The risk of gastrointestinal illness can also be reduced by maintaining personal hygiene practices and cleaning cookware."

That Is the common belief, but has it really been tested?

As mentioned above, What can grow in a pot overnight that doesn't get resolved with the next boil?"

And from what "d k" has said, anal-to-mouth self-infection hasn't been substantiated.

Personal hygiene and cleanliness in the kitchen seems like common sense, but the question of it's effectiveness is still in question.

Edited by greg23 on 04/21/2014 09:56:37 MDT.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Water, hygiene and more on 04/21/2014 10:01:22 MDT Print View

I always assumed this meant inoculating your food with the bugs from dirt you picked up on the trail.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Water, hygiene and more on 04/21/2014 10:32:41 MDT Print View

My food is in my pack, in bags, until it get dumped into boiling water.

You got ham hock swinging from your pack?


Oh, you mean dirty hands handling the food....

Well maybe washing away tetnus Is a good idea.

Muscular spasms (specifically opisthotonos) in a patient suffering from tetanus.
Painting by Sir Charles Bell, 1809.

Edited by greg23 on 04/21/2014 10:36:46 MDT.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: tetanus on 04/21/2014 17:33:01 MDT Print View

Did you read the same article I did, Greg? It had that picture too...

"Clostridium tetani is the causative agent of tetanus. ... Carrier rates in humans vary from 0 to 25%, and the organism is thought to be a transient member of the flora whose presence depends upon ingestion. The disease stems not from invasive infection but from a potent neurotoxin (tetanus toxin or tetanospasmin) produced when spores germinate and vegetative cells grow after gaining access to wounds. The organism multiplies locally and symptoms appear remote from the infection site."

So in other words, you should wash your hands to keep tetanus out of your wounds (more important than keeping it out of your food! though if you keep it off your food it's less likely that you will be carrying it inside you to a later date when you will have additional chances of getting it in your wounds). My thinking (this is opinion, haven't seen this spelled out anywhere) is that handwashing on trips is probably more important in terms of washing away any disease-causing organisms you've picked up externally, and perhaps to keep any of your own internal flora from getting into foods like cheese that you carry for a number of days that can foster bacterial toxin production. Also to keep your internal flora away from your companions in case you are incubating a disease-causing strain of bacteria, or even a cold (adenoviruses and others are shed in feces too).

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
RE: Re: tetanus on 04/21/2014 17:57:41 MDT Print View

And getting a tetanus shot (or a booster) is probably a pretty good idea, too...

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: RE: Re: tetanus on 04/21/2014 18:02:27 MDT Print View

"And getting a tetanus shot (or a booster) is probably a pretty good idea, too..."

+1 big time! All the washing in the world isn't going to prevent tetanus being carried into a puncture wound, which is the way a lot of tetanus infections used to be incurred, stepping on a nail, thorn, etc.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: RE: Re: tetanus on 04/21/2014 19:08:25 MDT Print View

+1 on the vaccine! I should have said that...

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: tetanus on 04/21/2014 20:32:37 MDT Print View

I had tetanus once. It's no joke. Went to the doctor with a sore throat and back spasms. Diagnosed with strep throat, and about to be discharged when a violent back spasm hit. The doctor said, "Hold on a minute, let's do one more test..." then stuck a tongue depressor in the back of my throat. I chomped down so hard it made the doctor jump! Apparently, a symptom of tetanus is that your gag reflex is replaced by a chomp reflex.

Treatment was pretty easy, IV antitoxin, oral antifungal, and a big-ass bottle of Valium.

The doctor asked if I had been exposed to rusty metal, or had any puncture wounds. I said, "I'm a bicycle mechanic, so yeah. Every damned day!"

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: I probably have Giardia.. and it's no fun :-( on 04/24/2014 17:15:16 MDT Print View

No mention of confirmed diagnosis.