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Giardia lamblia

Please click the frequently asked questions below for further information and IPC precautions required:


  • What is Giardia lamblia?

    Giardia lamblia is a flagellated parasite that colonises in the small intestine causing giardiasis (also known as giardia). Infection in humans usually occurs by ingestion of Giardia lamblia cysts (which can survive for months in cold water) from drinking contaminated water, such as from streams and ponds. It can also contaminate urban water supplies despite treatment, as the parasite cysts are resistant to conventional water treatment processes. Transmission is also possible from contact with infected animals or ingestion of infected uncooked foods including meat products.

  • Why is this information important?

    If NIAS staff are aware that the patient has a suspected or confirmed case this should be communicated to the Control Room (Emergency or Non-emergency as appropriate) and the staff in the receiving unit when transferring the patient to ensure effective patient care and management.

  • How is it spread?
    • Swallowing unsafe food or water contaminated with Giardia germs
    • Having close contact with someone who has giardia, particularly in childcare settings
    • Traveling within areas that have poor sanitation
    • Exposure to faeces of an infected person
    • Transferring Giardia parasites 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 faeces
  • What are the symptoms of Giardia?

    Short-term symptoms include:

    • Diarrhoea
    • Foul-smelling, greasy stools
    • Stomach cramps or pain
    • Upset stomach or nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Dehydration (loss of fluids)

    Occasionally, people with giardia will have long-term complications such as reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and recurring diarrhoea that can last for years.

  • IPC Precautions
    • Contact Precautions should be used
    • Hand Hygiene should be completed as per the 5 moments in line with usual practice with Soap and Water
    • Eye protection should be risk assessed and worn if any risk of splashes.
    • Gloves and Aprons should be worn.
    • The patient should be transported via ambulance with no other patients present.
    • Laundry should be treated as contaminated, placed into an alginate bag and placed into a red laundry bag.
  • Do staff need any prophylaxis or follow up?

    If staff have been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case of Giardia they should remain vigilant for any symptoms but there is no active follow up required.

    If staff become symptomatic they should remain off work until 48 hours asymptomatic (72 hours if food handling).