Giardiasis is an illness caused by a parasite called Giardia intestinalis. It lives in soil, food and water. It may also be on surfaces that have been contaminated with waste. You can become infected if you swallow the parasite. You can also get it if you’re exposed to human feces through sexual contact.

The risk of getting giardia is higher for travelers to countries where it is common. People in childcare settings and those who drink untreated water are also at risk.

Diarrhea is the main symptom of giardia infection. Others include:

  • Passing gas
  • Greasy stools
  • Stomach cramps
  • Upset stomach or nausea

These symptoms may lead to weight loss and loss of body fluids. Symptoms of infection often last two to six weeks, but some people have no symptoms at all. Stool sample tests can diagnose giardiasis. You often need to collect more than one sample to have tested. Doctors may use several drugs to treat the giardia infection.

The best way to prevent giardia infection is to practice good hygiene, including frequent hand washing. You should not drink water that may be contaminated. You should also peel or wash fresh fruit and vegetables before eating.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention