THE TREMATODES (FLUKES)
The flukes are the hardest parasites to get rid of as they can stay in the human body for 10-20 years with each adult fluke living for one year. Flukes come from raw fish, undercooked water plants (such as watercress) and are also carried by dogs, cats and other fish-eating animals. They are also found in beef, chicken, pork and unwashed vegetables.
LIVER FLUKES- infect billary ducts and gall bladders. They start out as small white flattish worms - wider on one end and more narrow on the other. The young adults are various shades of pink while the older adults are bright red to almost black in color. The longer they live in the liver - the darker in color they become because the blood from the liver stains their skin.
LUNG FLUKES – are found in the lungs and are sometimes mistaken for lung cancer on x-rays. They cause cough, blood tinged mucous, and vague chest pains.
BLOOD FLUKES - travel all over the human body and into all organs including the brain and spinal cord. They can cause seizures and they destroy red blood cells.
THE CESTODES (TAPEWORMS)
Most tapeworms are ½ inch long and are a grayish white color, but there are some species that can grow to 33 feet long and can lay over 1 million eggs per day. Tapeworm bodies are mostly reproductive organs. Their head hooks into the intestinal wall, the length of their bodies is made up of section that are nothing but ovaries and testes for reproduction and their “tails” release these eggs. These eggs hatch into larvae that can migrate to other parts of the human body and can form cysts. Even if the sections are broken off, the tapeworm can regenerate itself from only it’s head. Some tapeworms can live for 25 years.
PORK TAPEWORMS - are carried by undercooked pork or by the anus-hand-mouth route. They can incubate in the human body for up to 30 years before reproducing. They can affect the eyes and the brain. The infection is called CYSTICERCOSIS. When the cysticerci are found in the brain, the condition is called neurocysticercosis. Once inside the body, the tapeworm egg hatches, penetrates the intestine, travels through the bloodstream and may develop into cysticerci in the muscles, brain or eyes. Signs and symptoms of infection will depend on how many there are and where in the body they are located. You may feel lumps in the muscles, under the skin. They may float in the eyes causing blurry or disturbed vision. They can also cause swelling of the eyes. In the brain, they cause headaches and seizures - they also cause confusion, lack of attention, balance difficulties and swelling of the brain (hydrocephalus). Heavy infections can cause sudden death.
FISH TAPEWORM – this is the largest of the species, it can grow to 33 feet in length. It causes anemia, water retention and weight gain as it makes the host uncontrollably hungry.
DOG TAPEWORMS – are passed along to us from cats and dogs through petting and grooming. It is called DIPYLIDIUM CANINUM - it is found throughout the world. The adult tapeworm is made up of many small segments - the tapeworm itself can measure 4-28 inches long - each segment is about the size of a grain of rice. As the adult tapeworms matures inside the intestines, these segments break off and pass in the stool - they look like grains of rice - are hard and are a white/slightly yellowish color. These segments are about 2mm long and are what contains the tapeworm eggs.
Alveolar Echinococcosis - AE disease results from being infected with the larval stage of Echinococcus multilocularis, a microscopic tapeworm (1-4 millimeters) found in foxes, coyotes, dogs, and cats. Although human cases are rare, infection in humans causes parasitic tumors to form in the liver, and, less commonly, the lungs, brain, and other organs. If left untreated, infection with AE can be fatal. AE is caused by tumor-like or cyst-like tapeworm larvae growing in the body. AE usually involves the liver, but can spread to other organs of the body. Because the cysts are slow-growing, infection with AE may not produce any symptoms for many years. Pain or discomfort in the upper abdominal region, weakness, and weight loss may occur as a result of the growing cysts. Symptoms may mimic those of liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.