Cases of Giardiasis rise to at least 32


Daniel Wilcox, Editor-in-Chief

A follow-up email sent on October 23 by Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Fran’Cee Brown-McClure, updated the college community on the status of the giardiasis situation at Union. 

As of October 23, 32 students have been “confirmed as having giardiasis”, although other students are known to be displaying symptoms consistent with the parasitic disease. It was reiterated that there are confirmed cases within on-campus and off-campus student populations. 

The college is continuing to work with the Schenectady County Department of Health, to “support the… investigations of potential sources of these infections.”

It was speculated in the email that recent infections may have occurred due to “person-to-person transmission”, with the disease being contagious between individuals. On October 19, the Director of Media and Public Relations, Phillip Wajda, explained to Concordiensis that the “(Schenectady) County Department of Health has not indicated that the students with giardiasis need to quarantine.” However, in the most recent email, it has been mentioned that those carrying the disease can transmit it for up to six weeks after they become infected which is greater than the two week period of transmission for COVID-19.

 Moreover, the email stated that some students who had become infected with the disease have explained that they had entered “bodies of water that are not designated as a swimming area.” Water sources, such as lakes, reservoirs and streams are known to be a potential source of giardiasis, according to the New York Department of Health. Bodies of water that should be avoided, according to the email, are Hans Groot’s Kill, the stream running through Jackson’s Gardens, and the Plotterkill County Nature Preserve in Rotterdam, although this list is not exhaustive. Students have therefore been asked to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, avoid potential contact with fecal matter, avoid sexual activity while symptomatic and clean and disinfect the home environment when a person or pet is ill with the disease.

The first cases of giardiasis were reported publicly on October 14, with an email from the Vice President for Administration and Finance, Michele Gibson, announcing the presence of the disease at Union. This was followed-up by an update from Dean Brown-McClure on October 16, with a figure of 18 students being provided as having confirmed giardiasis. In this email, it was explained that Union’s water supply had been tested, with the “proper level of chlorine” and no presence of bacteria. As well, it was explained Union College Hospitality had “reviewed their protocols and procedures.” 

The college has suffered from many more cases of giardiasis than COVID-19, where, as of October 22 there are two students in quarantine, and only one active case. Overall, the college has had eleven cases of COVID-19, with the last positive result being found on October 15. 

Concordiensis has reached out to the Schenectady County Department of Health for comment.