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Enjoy Pakistan-But don’t drink the Water

Protozoan infections are often considered to be characteristic of developing nations where sanitary conditions are often poor and insect populations are uncontrolled. Indeed, fatalities from protozoan infections are highest in those countries. Within the Pakistan however at least one protozoan has alarmed public health authorities with its frequency of attack. The pathogen is Giardia lamblia, a common cause of water borne outbreaks of diarrhea. Victims are often residents of rural environments or visitors whose vacations are abruptly terminated by the disease. Giardia infections also spread quickly through child care facilities, especially those in which diaper changes are not followed by thorough hand washing with soap and hot water.

Outbreak of giardiasis can usually be traced to contaminated drinking water that has been inadequately treated. Routine chlorination procedures, for example are ineffective against Giardia cysts. However, Giardia cysts are usually removed from municipal water supplies by filtration. Defective filtration systems that fail to remove the cysts mechanically are responsible for many incidents of giardiasis.

Giardia cysts may also be found in untreated waters, such as in streams, rivers or lakes that are contaminated with animal or human feces. Even those cool, clear waters that see so pure and refreshing to hikers may be harboring the infectious form of the protozoa and cause “hiker’s diarrhea”. Vacationers, campers and hikers who drink from untreated sources can prevent their vacations from being ruined by boiling their drinking water to kill Giardia cysts. Chlorine tablets however, provide no protection.
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