What is Tapeworm? - Tapeworms are flatworm parasites also known as Cestodes. They can form in the intestine as a result of eating contaminated raw meat or fish and oral exposure to contaminated faeces (e.g. eating, drinking or rubbing faeces to the mouth). Their larvae can be found on uncooked food and once ingested they can grow into adult tapeworms that reach around twelve metres in length! They rely on moisture to stay alive and once out of the body should shrivel and die. They are long, tubular and segmented in shape (the segments can break off and leave the body in stools).
About Tapeworms - Tapeworm infections occur mainly in areas around the world which have insufficient sanitation levels (such as developing countries). However, tapeworms have been recorded in countries such as the UK since the turn of the century. There are several different types of tapeworms and those that more commonly infect human beings are Echinococcus granulosus (dog tapeworms), Taenia solium (pork tapeworms), Taenia saginata (beef tapeworms), Diphyllobothrium latum (fish tapeworms) and Hymenolepis nana (dwarf tapeworms). Tapeworms can be spread by the dog flea and cat flea.
Tapeworms in Dogs - Diseases such as Hydatid disease are caused by dog tapeworm infection if their eggs/larvae are eaten. Although this is more common within sheep/dogs humans can occasionally pick up the disease through exposure to infected dog’s faeces. The worming of dogs was made compulsory in the UK during the 1980s and led to the disease disappearing in children under the age of fifteen. Other types of tapeworm cause different illnesses, where larvae inhabit other areas of the body and not just the intestine, such as the lungs and liver. anemia is linked with fish tapeworms (as they apparently lead to the reduction of red blood cells).
Tapeworms Symptoms - There are many symptoms of tapeworms, although it is quite possible someone could have a tapeworm and not show too many signs. Humans may experience signs in their stools, as mentioned above. Segments of the tapeworm, and larvae, can break off and appear in the stool. These will look like little worms in the stool. Depending on the type, other symptoms of tapeworms in people could be diarrhoea, dizziness, nausea, stomach pains, pain in the lungs (from cysts), weight loss or an increase in appetite.
Treatment of Tapeworms - Treatments vary, depending on the symptoms and the type of tapeworm. For those that cause infection only within the intestine (such as the beef tapeworm), tablets can usually be prescribed. Larvae infections are a lot more serious to treat, as they can cause problems to the liver and lungs, as well as get into the blood stream and move around the body. A doctor should be consulted if you think you have tapeworms and a veterinarian consulted if you think your pet does. Cleanliness and being careful with food should be practised and any contact to potentially contaminated animals or their faeces should be avoided.
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