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05/21/24 Public Health Education Topic: Giardia


Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease caused by the microscopic parasite Giardia duodenalis (or “Giardia” for short). Once a person or animal has been infected with Giardia, the parasite lives in the intestines and is passed in stool (poop). Once outside the body, Giardia can sometimes survive for weeks or even months. Giardia can be found in every region of the United States and around the world.

How do you get giardiasis and how is it spread?

You can get giardiasis if you swallow the Giardia parasite (germ). Giardia—or poop from people or animals infected with Giardia—can contaminate anything it touches. Giardia spreads very easily; even getting tiny amounts of poop in your mouth could make you sick.

Giardiasis can be spread by:

  • Swallowing unsafe food or water contaminated with Giardia germs.

  • Having close contact with someone who has giardiasis, particularly in childcare


  • Traveling within areas that have poor sanitation.

  • Exposure to poop through sexual contact from someone who is sick or recently sick with Giardia.

  • Transferring Giardia germs picked up from contaminated surfaces (such as bathroom

handles, changing tables, diaper pails, or toys) into your mouth.

  • Having contact with infected animals or animal environments contaminated with


What are the symptoms of giardiasis?

Giardia infection (giardiasis) can cause a variety of intestinal symptoms, which include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Gas

  • Foul-smelling, greasy poop that can float

  • Stomach cramps or pain

  • Upset stomach or nausea

  • Dehydration

Symptoms of giardiasis generally begin by having 2 to 5 loose stools (poop) per day and progressively increasing fatigue. Other, less common symptoms include fever, itchy skin, hives, and swelling of the eyes and joints. Over time, giardiasis can also cause weight loss and keep the body from absorbing nutrients it needs, like fat, lactose, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Some people with Giardia infections have no symptoms at all.

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