The most common tapeworm infection in Australia is caused by dwarf tapeworm. There is also a risk in Australia of contracting a serious condition called hydatid disease from the eggs of a type of tapeworm called Echinococcus granulosus found in dog faeces (poo).
"It's very rare, particularly in Australia. There's only one documented case of a type of fish tapeworm in Australia," Dr Ho said. "But in other countries, particularly in the northern hemisphere, people do get them." The longest type of tapeworm found in humans can grow to 10 metres and live for 20 years, Dr Ho said.
Most of them are not a problem in Australia because of our climate and good standard of sanitation. Worms causing infection in people are parasites that live and breed mostly in the bowel (intestine). The most common worm in Australian children is the threadworm, Enterobius vermicularis, sometimes called the pinworm.
Fortunately for those living in Australia and New Zealand, many of these worm types – namely roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm - are considered rare. This is because they are more common in regions with a high population density and poor hygiene and sanitation facilities.
Tapeworms are uncommon in the U.S. today because of laws on feeding practices and inspection of the animals we use for food. You can further reduce your risk of tapeworms by washing your hands before and after using the toilet and by following these food safety tips. Avoid raw fish and meat.
Don't Worry, They're Rare
If the thought of tapeworms makes you squirm, take heart. You probably won't ever get one. Less than 1,000 people in the U.S. get them a year.
Tapeworm infections are rare in the United States. When they do happen, they're easy to treat. Often, people may not know they have a tapeworm infection because they have no symptoms or their symptoms are mild.
A tapeworm infection is usually diagnosed by finding eggs or tapeworm segments in the stool. Your doctor may ask you to bring in a sample so a lab can look for eggs, larvae, or tapeworm segments. A blood test can spot antigens, foreign substances that let your doctor know your body is trying to fight the infection.
Treatment for tapeworms in humans
Sometimes, the tapeworm leaves the body on its own. This is why some people never have symptoms or only have mild symptoms. If a tapeworm doesn't leave your body, your doctor will recommend a treatment based on the type of infection.
For the most common types of worms, including roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms, there are all-in-one medications for your dog (allwormers) in flavoured chewable tablets which will kill the existing infestation.
When infected with worms, it should be dewormed periodically, for adults and children over 2 years old should be dewormed 2 to 3 times a year, ie every 4 to 6 months.
The spread of worm infections
Threadworms are easily spread so the slightest contact can pass on the infection, which is why many adults end up with the same infection as their children. To halt the spread of worms, it's crucial to treat all members of the family – not just the youngsters!
In rare cases, tapeworm segments become lodged in the appendix, or the bile and pancreatic ducts. Infection with T. solium tapeworms can result in human cysticercosis, which can be a very serious disease that can cause seizures and muscle or eye damage.
Management and Treatment
You can easily kill tapeworms with anthelmintic drugs, including praziquantel (Biltricide®), albendazole (Albenza®) and nitazoxanide (Alinia®). Healthcare providers usually recommend praziquantel because it also paralyzes the worm, forcing it to dislodge from your intestinal wall.
Factors that may put you at greater risk of tapeworm or larval cyst infection include: Eating raw or undercooked meats. The main risk factor for tapeworm infection is eating raw or undercooked meat and fish. Dried and smoked fish also may have larval cysts in them.
Many times, people can be infected for long periods of time without even knowing they have a tapeworm infection. While viral or bacterial infections can disappear in a matter of days or weeks, a tapeworm could be with you for years.
Eating affected meat or fish
If meat or fish have larvae cysts and are undercooked or raw, the cysts can travel to the human intestine, where they can mature into adult tapeworms. An adult tapeworm can : live as long as 25 years.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid tapeworms:
Avoid eating raw or undercooked fish (and meat and poultry for that matter). Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If eating sushi or ceviche, make sure it is from a reputable restaurant that takes the proper precautions.
In general, the mode of tapeworm transmission from pet to person is due to close physical contact such as allowing a pet to lick you or letting it sleep on your bed which causes accidental ingestion of the tapeworm eggs.
Clinical diagnosis is usually made by observing the white, mobile tapeworm segments in the feces or crawling around the anus. These segments look like grains of white rice or cucumber seeds.
Coconut is the most effective home remedy to treat intestinal worms. Consume a tbsp of crushed coconut in your breakfast. After 3 hours, drink about one glass of lukewarm milk mixed with 2 tbsps of castor oil. Drink this for a week to get rid of all types of intestinal worms.
Dr. Karla Robinson said intestinal parasites in Americans are very rare.