Nasty Infectious Diseases You Want To Avoid - Amebiasis
Amebiasis (amoebiasis), also known as amoebic dysentery, this infection of the liver or intestine is caused by the parasite Entamoeba histolytica, normally found in the human intestinal tract and feces. It is most serious in infants, the elderly, and those with impaired immune systems. Anyone can get the disease, but it is found more often in homosexual males, and those arriving from tropical or subtropical areas and those in institutions. Some people carry the parasite for weeks to years, often without symptoms.
Cause - Food can be tainted with the protozoa through fecal contamination, such as when infected food handlers don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. A person contracts the disease by swallowing the cyst stage of the parasite in contaminated food or water. The disease can also be spread by person-to-person contact, especially during anal intercourse.
Symptoms - If there are symptoms, they may include tenderness over the abdomen and liver, abdominal pain, jaundice, loose morning stools, diarrhea, nervousness, anorexia, weight loss, and fatigue. Symptoms usually occur from a few days to a few months after exposure, but usually within two to four weeks. Most people exposed to the disease don't become seriously ill. Rarely, the parasite will invade the body beyond the intestines, causing a more serious infection (such as a liver abscess). Fortunately over 80% of all people who contract E. histolytica never suffer any significant symptoms thus never become sick from it.
Diagnosis - The disease is diagnosed by examining stools under a microscope; multiple samples of fresh feces may have to be studied because the number of parasites changes from day to day, and they are hard to see.
Treatment - Metronidazole is often effective in curing the infection. It is not usually necessary to isolate an infected person, since casual contact at work or school is not likely to transmit the disease. Special precautions may be needed by food handlers or children enrolled in day care.
Prevention - Careful handwashing after going to the bathroom and proper disposal of sewage can help prevent the disease. Infected patients should refrain from intimate contact until effectively treated. Since amebiasis can be endemic in many foreign countries, especially the ones near the tropics, it is adviseable to drink only bottled or boiled (for at least 1 minute) water or carbonated drinks which are sealed in bottles or cans. You should shy away from fountain drinks or any drinks with ice cubes in them as they can release contaminated water as they melt. Another way to make water safe is through a filtration process utilizing a 1 micron or less filter and dissolving iodine, chlorine, or chlorine dioxide tablets in the filtered water. Quality 1 micron filters can be purchased in many camping/outdoor supply stores. It is also adviseable to not eat or drink milk, cheese, or dairy products unless you are convinced that they have been pasteurized. Furthermore, you should not eat fresh fruit or vegetables that you did not peel yourself, and most importantly never eat or drink anything sold by street vendors.
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