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Mountain News: The funeral of Hunter S. Thompson

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The hospitals in Vail and Glenwood Springs are both planning a hospital in Eagle, located half-way between, with ultimate plans for assisted-care living. The hospitals, however, aren’t moving fast enough to suit the county commissioners, who are reported by the Vail Daily to be considering allocating $1 million to the project. Only 3 per cent of Eagle County’s population was over the age of 65, but that is expected to increase substantially in just the new few years.

Giardiasis not huge threat

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — You know you should never, never drink water from streams in the backcountry. For 30 years we’ve heard warnings that you can get Giardia lamblia cysts and other microscopic miscreants that can cause diarrhea and other great unpleasantness.

But if you absolute must drink water in the backcountry, drink from fast-moving streams, but never, ever from lakes. And, of course, always take a high-priced water filter.

That’s what we’ve often been told. But the Los Angeles Times reports that evidence for those claims is skimpy. In fact, researchers from the University of Cincinnati found that giardiasis caused by consumption of high mountain water is an "an extraordinarily rare event," one comparable to the threat of shark attacks against beach-goers.

A 1995 survey of 48 of the 50 state health departments found that only two of the agencies considered giardia cysts a problem for backpackers, and even then, they had no data to support this concern.

Another study was done in 1993 in the Desolation Wilderness, located west of Lake Tahoe. That study found that of the 41 backpackers studied, six were stricken with cramping diarrhea, nausea and bloating. Yet lab tests revealed that none of them were infected with giardia. Instead, E. coli, salmonella or other culprits were suspected.

Poor personal hygiene, not contaminated water, may explain the frequent complaints of those returning from the backcountry, say wilderness managers. When going to the wilderness, hikers or backpackers are less punctual about cleanliness after going to the bathroom. Afterward, they may share food along with fecal matter, which can be transmitted from the surfaces of eating utensils and even camping gear.

"We are so dependent on convenient sanitation that when people go out in the wilderness, they fall apart, and their habits drop to Third World standards," Dr. Howard Backer, a water purification expert and a past president of the Wilderness Medical Society, told the newspaper.

A 20-year study currently underway in the Sierra Nevada aims to further document the quality of wilderness water. Bob Derlet, an emergency room physician and medical professor, hikes about 2,000 miles each summer, stopping at 100 sites to collect samples of water that are then tested for the presence of microscopic miscreants.

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