What is Giardia? The stomach bug parasite outbreak which has shut down a Liverpool primary school

Two children who attended a Liverpool primary school which was battling an outbreak of an infectious stomach bug have died.

The pair, five and six, were pupils at Millstead Primary School, in Everton, Merseyside, which closed last month over the Giardia outbreak.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the causes of the deaths of the two children have not been confirmed but that they are “unlikely to be due to Giardia”.

The headteacher said the school community was “devastated” after their recent deaths and that both children “filled their classes with joy”.

But what is Giardiasis? The Independent takes a look below.

A close-up of the Giardia parasite, which causes Giardiasis
A close-up of the Giardia parasite, which causes Giardiasis (Wikicommons)

What is Giardia?

Giardia is a type of parasite that can cause Giardiasis, a tummy bug that can cause symptoms like diarrhoea, farting and bloating.

It usually goes away in about a week if it is treated, but it can sometimes last much longer, according to the National Health Service.

The parasites are found in streams and lakes but also in public water supplies, swimming pools, whirlpool spas and wells.

How is it spread?

Giardiasis is usually spread through direct contact with infected people or animals, or from swallowing contaminated water, food or drinks, according to the NHS.

It can be caught by drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, touching contaminated surfaces or having sex with people infected with the parasite.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

The main symptoms of giardiasis are smelly diarrhoea, tummy pain or cramps, farting, smelly burps, bloating and weight loss, according to the NHS.

It is usually treated with a course of antibiotics and is cured within a week.