Beaver fever: Petting zoos, untreated water primary sources of Giardia at home and abroad

The purpose of this study is to determine how demographic and exposure factors related to giardiasis vary between travel and endemic cases.

beaver.feverExposure and demographic data were gathered by public health inspectors from giardiasis cases reported from the Region of Waterloo from 2006 to 2012. Logistic regression models were fit to assess differences in exposure to risk factors for giardiasis between international travel-related cases and Canadian acquired cases while controlling for age and sex. Multinomial regression models were also fit to assess the differences in risk profiles between international and domestic travel-related cases and endemic cases.

Travel-related cases (both international and domestic) were more likely to go camping or kayaking, and consume untreated water compared to endemic cases. Domestic travel-related cases were more likely to visit a petting zoo or farm compared to endemic cases, and were more likely to swim in freshwater compared to endemic cases and international travel-related cases. International travellers were more likely to swim in an ocean compared to both domestic travel-related and endemic cases.

These findings demonstrate that travel-related and endemic cases have different risk exposure profiles which should be considered for appropriately targeting health promotion campaigns.

Beaver_FeverA comparison of exposure to risk factors for giardiasis in non-travellers, domestic travellers and international travellers in a Canadian community, 2006–2012

Epidemiology and Infection, Volume 144, Issue 5, April 2016, pages 980-999, DOI:

L. Swirski, D. L. Pearl, A. S. Peregrine, and K. Pintar

Camping trip linked to NZ student illnesses

Camping wasn’t a big part of my youth. My mom’s idea of camping (or roughing it as she calls it) was a hotel that didn’t have a working air conditioner.  When I was a teenager we went camping a couple of times and rented a trailer in a campground beside Darien Lake (a Western New York amusement park). Most of my camping time was spent chasing girls around the park and riding roller coasters. I camped a few more times in high school – which really just meant underage drinking in the woods. And it always rained.

Last fall I was asked by a local boy scout troop to come talk about food safety on camping/canoe trips. I admitted early on about my lack of camping experience – and kept their attention with stories about barf and diarrhea. I also gave out candy. Gotta know your audience.

According to the New Zealand Herald, a camping experience has left at least 30 kiwi students and parents with some sort of gastro illness following a camping trip.

A school trip to Omatua Camp, near Rissington in Hawkes Bay, has resulted in about half the 30 youngsters and even some parents getting ill.

The school’s assistant principal Jane Taylor said the group arrived at the camp on Wednesday last week but days later the sickness kicked in. A second planned school visit to the camp was cancelled as a result.

"They [health inspectors] advised us not to go until they had identified the cause of the illness," Ms Taylor said.

The Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s Medical Officer of Health Lester Calder said health protection officers were presently carrying out tests to find what sparked the outbreak of gastroenteritis.

While the cause of the outbreak was a mystery at this stage, health inspection officers were adopting a precautionary approach by investigating the drinking water supply at the camp, and providing advice about improvements which may be needed for better drinking water protection.

I guess it wasn’t just the lack of coffee, nice beds and air conditioning my mom was worried about – maybe she was trying to avoid foodborne illness.

Food safety defined -the how to avoid bears definition

Stephen Colbert’s fear of bears – usually listed as the biggest threat to America in his Threat Down segment – has made it to the blogsphere.

I’ve made it a point to say in my talks lately, when I talk about food safety, I’m talking about food that doesn’t make people barf. Food safety means lots of things to lots of people, but I’m focused on the microbes that sicken up to 30 per cent of all citizens of all countries every year (that’s what the World Health Organization says).

If you plan on venturing into the wilderness on a camping or hiking trip, you need to be prepared to deal with potentially dangerous wildlife. Bears in particular need to be respected and avoided. One of the easiest ways to avoid bears is to be careful with storing and preparing food.”

It’s not just Colbert. On a family trip when I was, oh, about 13-years-old, we spent a couple of nights in Banff, Alberta, and were visited by a bear that emptied the cooler.

"Be aware of the necessary food storage and cooking precautions while camping. Do everything you can to keep food odors away from your camp. Taking these precautions is the easiest way to prevent a bear encounter."

So respect the bears (especially in the video below, which involves Canadians, kids, hockey and bears).

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
ThreatDown – Bears
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Protests

Please, wash your hands first

I was camping out at Yellowstone last weekend, trying hard to synchronize my food safety concerns and the limited resources of a campsite.

We arrived early morning, started setting up the tent and unloading the truck when I popped open a bag of mini rice cakes. The three boys I was camping with (shown at the left) quickly joined to share the treat.

I starred wide-eyed when I saw their dirty hands digging into the food. No offense to the guys but, I knew there wasn’t soap in the bathroom of the campsite, which doesn’t really matter, because they probably went in the woods anyways. In conclusion, there was most likely no hand washing before digging in.

I didn’t want to be a food safety geek, and I wasn’t going to start acting like all of their moms, so I sucked it up, looked the other way, and kept eating.

Luckily we all survived the trip safely.

Today a news story was published about 20 people getting sick at a wedding reception in Minnesota after eating from a bowl of chips. The chips were contaminated with norovirus, possibly spread through poop.

Ok next time, I promised myself, I will be that geeky mom and order everyone around to wash their hands before sticking them into that bowl of chips.

Be wild – and safe

I am planning on going to Yellowstone Park next weekend. I read this story and got a little worried.

About 30 people came down with symptoms consistent with the norovirus infection at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and High Sierra camps in the area, said Shane Sims, a specialist in the safety office at Yosemite National Park…

The hiker camps are particularly vulnerable to the spread of norovirus illness, because people enjoying the outdoors aren’t always careful about hygiene, Sims said.

So I decided to put together a few tips on how to keep your hygienic standards from home in the wild – especially if you have children or grandparents around.

1 – Pack one of those hand sanitizer bottles and use it as often as you can – before and after handling food, after bathroom breaks – you know it, whenever you would normally wash your hands with soap.

2 – While you’re at it, take a pack of wipes or moist towels (can probably be found at the baby section) and use it to clean your body (focus on face, underarms, groin, buttocks, and feet). You will not only kill bacteria that could make you sick, you will smell good and feel much better too.

3 – Take a small bottle of isopropyl alcohol and some cotton balls. Soak a cotton ball in alcohol and use it to rub your feet. This eliminates dangerous bacteria that could be forming around blisters or wounds. Change to clean socks.

4 – Quick bathroom tips: when going number one go directly into running water if possible or far away from the camp if not. When going number two go far away from the camp, and bury your poop like cats do. (Remember to use your hand sanitizer afterwards)

5 – Do not handle food if you have open sores on your hands, if you have diarrhea, or if you’re feeling sick in general. This will prevent a spread of infection.

6 – If you want to be sure about the water you’re drinking, carry with you a water filter or purification tablets like Iodine. Regular unscented liquid chlorine bleach also works. Follow the instructions on the label.  Most water sources are contaminated in North America and may contain guardia or cryptosporidium therefore are not safe to drink.

7 – Drink lots of fluids, rest plenty, and keep warm.

Follow these tips and reduce your chances of getting norovirus like the hikers above, or any other sickness that could ruin a fun trip. Enjoy the wild!

Keeping the crap out of camping

Amy and I are leaving this afternoon for Canada for a month, to do some research in Quebec and play some hockey. We could go camping — but we won’t. I’ve become like Ben’s mom, whose idea of camping is when the hotel doesn’t have air conditioning.

But for millions of others, this Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of camping season. For Canadians, the season usually starts with the Victoria Day weekend (May 19, 2008) and is characterized by drunk students freezing their assess off in pouring rain. This year was no different.

Camping can either be a flurry of fun and adventure, or a miserable few days of getting sick in the bushes and being dehydrated.  Every summer, thousands of people set out on these camping adventures, and every summer, many become stricken with foodborne illnesses or a parasitic infection.  Some of the most common culprits include norovirus, E. coli O157:H7, Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia duodenalis. 

Such illnesses are not limited to the occasional outdoor excursion; there are many recorded outbreaks at children’s summer camps.  In 2007 norovirus struck down dozens of children and staff members in Three Rivers, MI at a local summer camp.  Such outbreaks are not new; in 1994 E. coli O157:H7 infected multiple people at a summer camp in Virginia.  Since children are more susceptible to these illnesses than adults, it’s especially important that when camping with children care is taken to prevent infection.

Basic camping food safety is similar to kitchen food safety:

• keep meat in the cooler below 40°F;
• store the food in a large cooler, in the shade and away from the campfire;
• when cooking meat, try to use disposable utensils and if metal utensils are used, sterilize them in the fire; and,
• use a tip sensitive digital thermometer.

Never drink untreated water; even the cleanest looking streams can contain harmful parasites.  There are a couple of options for treating water: boiling and filtration.  Bringing a metal cup along to boil water in is the easiest and most effective method.  Bring the water to a rolling boil, and let it boil for at least one minute.  If you’re in the mountains or higher elevations, it’s best to boil for several minutes.  Higher altitudes lower the boiling point of water.

If boiling is not an option, then a filter will suffice.  Make sure to purchase a filter with a pore size of 1 micron absolute or smaller.  This method works best in combination with water tablets.  Water tablets also help to remove some sediment. The tablets may leave a slight aftertaste, so bringing orange juice crystals or a powdered drink along may help to stifle it.