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Intestinal parasitism

THE human body plays host to a large number of organisms, it hosts several colonies of bacteria in every orifice, hollow organ and on the skin. Even though there are some bacteria that naturally live within our bodies, there are several parasites that affect the human body in a negative manner by eating food supplies, causing destruction and/or obstruction within organs and are of no benefit to the host.
Parasitic infection does not always cause immediate illness, they may live in the host body for several weeks, months or even years without causing problems. There are three main types of parasitic worms that affect human beings; flatworms, flukes and roundworms.
Flat worms: The most common flat worms found in the human body are tape worms. Tapeworm infection is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with eggs and/or larvae (young form of worm). The eggs of the tapeworm when ingested are capable of moving outside of the intestines and cause cysts in various body tissues and organs, this is known as invasive infection. When a tapeworm head adheres to the intestinal wall it grows and starts producing eggs. An adult intestinal tapeworm can live for up to 30 years in a host. Invasive larval infections usually cause organ and tissue damage resulting in fever, cystic masses or lumps, allergic reactions, bacterial infections and if found in the brain, may cause convulsions and/or other neurological symptoms.
Flukes: The most common type of fluke worm in human beings is the Fasciola parasite also known as the liver fluke. The lung fluke is relatively rare and is known to be endemic in certain parts of Western Africa. The fasciola parasite is found in over 50 countries in the world, especially where sheep and cattle are reared. Infection occurs when the parasite is swallowed when eating contaminated vegetables and drinking contaminated water. Some people feel sick early in the infection and others only feel sick during the chronic phase. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, general weakness, fever, enlarged liver and abnormal liver tests.
Roundworms: The most common round worms that affect human beings are ascaris lumbricoides, hookworm, filarial worms and various thread worms. The filarial worms usual migrate to various parts of the body and some can even be seen just underneath the skin.
In the case of Ascaris Lumbricoides, infection happens when eggs and/or larvae are swallowed in contaminated food and water. It is also possible to ingest eggs after touching contaminated soil. There are generally two phases of infection. Early phase where worms hatch and move from the small intestine to lungs, and the late phase when the adult worms in the intestines may cause abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, passing worms in the stool, diarrhoea on/off and in massive infestations may cause intestinal blockage.
These worm infestations are all treatable conditions, but prevention is better and cheaper than cure. Ensure that all raw vegetables are washed thoroughly and if possible with chlorinated water. Make sure all drinking water is properly treated. Children, two years and older, may be de-wormed every six months. Lastly, if you suspect you or someone in your family is affected by worms, visit your nearest health provider for investigation and treatment.
For more information on intestinal parasitism and other health questions, email: 990health@champ.org.zm

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