Last week Slate magazine ran an article saying that it was pretty safe to drink from streams in the back country, despite warnings that you can never be sure it doesn’t contain nasty bug-churning bacteria from animal poop.
That would be cool, because using filters or UV purifiers or boiling water is a pain. It’s tough to walk by a glistening stream in the White Mountains without drinking when you’re hiking all sweaty and hot and you’ve drunk all the water you brought (who, me?).
Alas, it seems that advice wasn’t well thought-out, or so says Discover Magazine (here) as well as several other publications that scrambled to respond:
These organisms exist in waters because they exist in our digestive tracts and those of other animals. So anywhere that there’s poop near water, that water could contain pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Aeromonas, Yersenia enterocolitica, Leptospirosis, Listeria, or Vibrio, in addition to a suite of viruses and protozoan parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Some of these bugs only cause short-term, if severe, gastrointestinal distress. Others can cause issues that last for weeks, months, or even years.
You are spot on, I contracted Guardia in Colorado when I was pregnant. It is a nasty stomach bug and you will get extremely sick! I just googled whether or not it is in the White Mountains because I just moved up here and am wary. Your article came up! Thanks!