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Tape Worm in the Garden

vidoe by CG Lau

Tapeworms (or cestodes) are parasitic flatworms, typically living in the digestive tracts of animals (cats, dogs, other animals) and humans upon infection. They attach to the lining of the intestine and parasitize their host by feeding on the nutrients in the intestine. Tapeworms are not free-living worms, and before they can infect an animal or human, they have to pass through an intermediate host. The primary intermediate host is the flea. You can prevent a tapeworm infection or re-infection by removing animal faeces and getting rid of fleas in your garden.

Human infection is often caused by the inadvertent consumption of the tapeworm’s eggs through poor hygiene, food, water, raw pork, beef and fish containing traces of contaminated faeces.

Human infection does not occur from eating infected offal. People usually become infected by accidentally swallowing the tapeworm eggs passed in dog faeces. A human acts as an intermediate host in the same way as a sheep, horse or kangaroo. The eggs travel through the bloodstream, lodge in organs and form watery cysts full of tapeworm heads. This is known as hydatid disease or echinococcosis. Hydatid disease is not contagious and is not passed by person-to-person contact.

The symptoms of hydatid disease depend on which organs are affected. The most commonly affected organ is the liver. The kidneys, brain and lungs are sometimes affected. In rare cases, hydatid cysts may form in the thyroid gland or heart or within bone.

Symptoms can occur a long time after infection, sometimes months or years later. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. If they occur, symptoms may include:

  • stomach upset

  • diarrhoea

  • unexplained weight loss

  • swollen abdomen

  • anaemia

  • weakness and fatigue

  • cough

  • blood or the fluid from a ruptured cyst – may be coughed up

  • jaundice – pressure from an enlarging cyst may cause jaundice.

Hydatid disease can be fatal without medical treatment. A heavily infested organ may fail or a cyst may rupture and cause a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

What do you need to do?

Always dig out soil from under my nails and coming in from outdoors with dirt somewhere on your body. I strongly recommend to always clean your hands well before sticking them in your mouth, particularly if you have garden pets or wildlife.And dirt doesn't taste all that good anyway.

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