Ever heard of Giardia?
It’s the organism responsible for one of the most common parasitic infections in the world – giardiasis, commonly referred to as beaver fever. It inhabits the digestive tracts of a wide variety of domestic and wild animals, including beavers (hence its nickname) as well as cows, rodents, sheep – as well as humans.
It tends to peak in the summer months when people enjoy outdoor activities – and inevitably come into contact with animal poo. In 2013 there were about 280 million people worldwide with symptomatic giardiasis. Giardia intestinalis (aka Giardia lamblia) is also the leading parasitic human enteric infection in the United States with an estimated 1·2 million cases occurring annually.
According to the ever-reliable Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1971 and 2011:
[list icon=”fa-flask”]242 outbreaks affected ~41 000 persons, resulted from waterborne (74·8%), foodborne (15·7%), person-to-person (2·5%), and animal contact (1·2%) transmission.[/list]
[list icon=”fa-flask”]Most (74·6%) waterborne outbreaks were associated with drinking water, followed by recreational water (18·2%).[/list]
[list icon=”fa-flask”]Problems with water treatment declined after the 1980s and most recreational water-associated outbreaks were linked to treated swimming venues.[/list]
[list icon=”fa-flask”]Produce was implicated most often in foodborne outbreaks. Additionally, foods were most commonly prepared in a restaurant and contaminated by a food handler. [/list]
So, if you like outdoor activities please try not to eat too much beaver poop. And if you must, make sure you deep fry it first.