Why Worms Should Concern Every Human on Earth
Think Worms and Other Parasites Needn’t Concern You? Think Again
Did you know that a single worm can live up to fifteen years in the human body? In some cases, a single female worm can also lay between 10,000 and 25,000 eggs per day. Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that around 3.5 billion people worldwide are worm-infested right now, although only 450 million of those folks are expected to be showing observable signs of illness. WHO adds that children are often the the most likely hosts for parasites — and those estimates aren’t confined to third world countries either. We’ve taken a closer look at worms and similar parasites to find out what you need to know.
What Types of Worms are There and How Do People Become Infected?
Intestinal worms come in three main categories: tapeworms, protozoa, and roundworms. While some of these visitors prefer to remain in the small and/or large intestines, others like to roam the body. They can range in size from microscopic to several feet long and generally pass from one person to another via their eggs which are laid in our bodies and later sent out through our feces. Once expelled, they can then live on in soil (or other environments) for extended periods of time, creating vast opportunities to be ingested by others and spread further.
Chances of Exposure Can Increase When Changing Diapers, Washing Laundry, Handling Soil, Eating Under-cooked Meats, Drinking Water or Unpasteurized Milk, or Even Swimming
Other parasites can enter the body through the skin or by eating uncooked meat, (Ever tried sushi? You might have worms yourself), or under-cooked meat, or by drinking unpasteurized milk. Eating unwashed raw food grown on contaminated soil can present a problem too. Still more can infect people through contaminated public water supplies as well as natural water sources which have been exposed to the infected feces of animals or humans. Swimming pools can also harbor the unwanted guests.
Let’s check out some different kinds of worms and parasites and how they spread and survive:
Ascariasis: These are found throughout the world, predominantly in areas of poor sanitation, and can also infest pigs. They can grow up to a foot long and live in the small intestine for up to two years. Their eggs can stay alive in soil for up to 2 years, infecting those who eat produce grown in the soil without thoroughly washing or cooking it. Once ingested, these guys like to travel. They start out by hatching in the stomach once they’re eaten, then move through the blood to the lungs, then onto the throat, and from there they get swallowed again. Once they arrive in the intestines, the process can begin once more with the eggs being expelled through the feces.
These can, on rare occasions, result in surgery
Symptoms from ascariasis are often unseen unless they are heavily infested, but can include stomachaches, bloating, breathing problems, and coughing. These can be visible in the poop or in mucus expelled through the nose. Serious infestations may actually block the intestines or other parts of the body, resulting in the need for surgery to remove them.
Strongyloidiasis: These can live for decades in the body, and usually burrow through the skin if exposed to contaminated soil. Once inside the body, these also like to travel similarly to the ascariasis, although in this case they can also hatch, as well as lay eggs, inside the intestines.
Take careful precautions if you have a weakened immune system or take corticosteroids
Those with weakened immune systems or anyone taking corticosteroids may be particularly susceptible to these, with occasional results of larvae increasing to the point of hyperinfection syndrome, in which some very rare cases become fatal.
Giardiasis: These are found in contaminated water and can infect both humans and animals, leading to diarrhea, cramping and stomach upsets which can last from two to six weeks. Weight loss and more severe symptoms are noticed in around half of those infected.
You can show no symptoms but still infect others. Wash your hands thoroughly and often
Giardiasis is spread easily in institutional settings like hospitals, day care centers, and nursing homes, and some of those infected don’t show symptoms but can still expose others.
Use caution when cleaning up after pets’ (or other animals’) feces
Hookworm: These are roundworms which can also enter the body through the skin or be ingested through the mouth. They can be found in a slightly different type in dogs and cats, which can also infest humans who come into contact with their feces. They travel through the body like the first two, but with these there’s sometimes a noticeable rash where they entered the body. Symptoms similarly include diarrhea and cramping, which can become serious and include bleeding, anemia, weight loss, and malnutrition in those with weakened immune systems or newborns, pregnant women, and very young children.
In addition to these, there are: amebiasis, cyclosporiasis, and cryptosporidiosis, enterobiasis, human tapeworm, and trichinosis, which range in exposure type, typical geography, and symptoms.
Please consult your physician right away if you believe you’ve been exposed to these or any other type of parasite.