Scariest Parasites That One Could Get
One the first day of October, the subject is parasites and so what is a better way to celebrate the month of Halloween by talking about rare parasites that are both highly dangerous and highly deadly. The reason for talking about parasites is that it the CDC warned that 90% of the population of the United States have a parasite. So the first question that should be asked is what is a parasite?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines parasites as an animal or plant that lives in or on another animal or plant for protection and food (merriam 2014). This includes external parasites as ticks, fleas, lice, and bedbugs as well as internal parasites like Taenia (tapeworm), hookworm, and other microorganisms. The three most popular parasites to infect humans include:
- Hookworms-hookworms larva attach themselves to the intestine walls and sucks the blood leading to anemia and other related sicknesses
- Scabies-mites lay eggs in the skin of a person leading to itchy skin and unlike most other parasites, this is transferred by contact between person to person.
- Roundworms-transferred by under-cooked meat, eggs enter the digestive system and hatch and then enter the bloodstream and enter the lungs where a person coughs them up and swallows them again starting the process all over again.
However this article will explore some are the most dangerous parasites including habitats they are most popular at, life-cycles, survival rate, and symptoms.
#6- Ascaris lumbricoides
Location: Every Country although it is now uncommon in the United States
Terms of transfer: Eating food or drinking water with traces of feces that has the parasite
Life-cycle: the life-cycle takes three months and starts with Ascaris lumbricoides eggs are swallowed. From there the eggs hatch into larvae that enter the bloodstream and break into the pulmonary arteries and stay in the lungs for two weeks. From there, they break into the alveoli and are coughed up and swallowed again which turns the larvae into adults. Once adults, they attach to the intestinal walls to mate and release eggs that are passed in feces. The eggs are resistant to most anything in the environment and can survive for months outside of a host. Once somebody swallows an egg, the life-cycle starts all over again.
Symptoms: fever, diarrhea, stomach ache, children or teens will have stunted growth. When worms are in the lungs: coughing, coughing up blood, trouble breathing, and ascari pneumonia
ways to prevent: washing off fruit or vegetables before eating with hot water, washing hands after using the restroom, and if travelling to a less-hygienic country, avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables before washing
Location: All throughout the world
Terms of transfer: Eating under-cooked meat, drinking contaminated water, swallowing through contact of cat feces, organ transplant
Symptoms: Most infected are not aware due to their immune system fighting the parasite but if it is severe, a person can get brain damage, swollen lymph nodes, aches in muscles, blurry vision, limited vision, and if it is sunny there can be pain to the eyes, redness, and in very severe cases, tearing. It can cause an expected mother to miscarriage and if it does not the baby can end up with neurological or developmental disorders.
Ways to Prevent: If a woman is expected or has an infant it is best to keep away from the liter box. For most others with normal immune syndromes, cooking meat to the suggested temperature is enough keep the parasite away
Location: Africa, Middle East, Central and South America
Terms of transfer: Caused by bites of Blackfly.
Life-cycle: blackfly transfers larvae to a uninfected person and drops the larvae on the skin which then the larvae digs through the skin into the bloodstream, from there worms grow into an adult and release larvae which then gets picked up from a blackfly and the life-cycle goes on.
Symptoms: Take many bites for symptoms to show but can cause blindness (300,000 people are blind due to the illness, and 800,000 have visual problems), nodules under the skin, or skin rash
Ways to prevent: travelers are mostly safe due to the amount of bites it takes to get a parasite infection, those who live in areas with a lot of blackflies should take measure to prevent getting bit.
#3-The Guinea Worm
Disease it causes: Dracunculiasis
Location: Remote parts of Africa including Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, and South Sudan
Terms of transferring: drinking water infected with the Guinea worm's larvae.
life-cycle: People become infected with Guinea worm by drinking water from ponds and other stagnant water containing tiny "water fleas" that carry the Guinea worm larvae. The larvae are eaten by the water fleas that live in these water sources.
Once drunk, the larvae are released from copepods in the stomach and penetrate the digestive track, passing into the body cavity. During the next 10-14 months, the female larvae grow into full-size adults. These adults are 60-100 centimeters (2-3 feet) long and as wide as a cooked spaghetti noodle.
When the adult female worm is ready to come out, it creates a blister on the skin anywhere on the body, but usually on the legs and feet. This blister causes a very painful burning feeling and it bursts within 24-72 hours. Immersing the affected body part into water helps relieve the pain. It also causes the Guinea worm to come out of the wound and release a milky white liquid into the water that contains millions of immature larvae. This contaminates the water supply and starts the cycle over again. For several days, the female worm can release more larvae whenever it comes in contact with water.
Symptoms: For the first year, most people do not experience any pain. The blister is usually the first sign of this parasite. People experience pain, fever, headaches, and swelling is the part of the body that the worm is located at. The blister itself causes more problems including the possibility of getting a secondary bacterial infection or even getting paralyzed or disabled depending on where the blister is located at and how big the worm is.
ways to prevent: Drink filtered water only, if in a place without filtered water, use cloth, heated water, or filtering straws. Also if anybody has swollen feet or blisters keep them away from water because that is what releases the worm from the body.
CDC update: As of 2013, 197 countries and territories are free of Guinea Worms and they believe that they might be able to eliminate the parasite in the next four years.
Information found at the CDC 2014
#2 Filarial Worm
Disease it causes:Lymphatic filariasis
Location: It is in 73 countries mostly tropical including the Western-Pacific, Caribbean, South America. This worm is not found in the USA.
Terms of transfer:mosquitoes
Life-cycle: Lymphatic filariasis is a microscopic worm that is in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected person, they carry these worms and infect the person with the parasite when they next feed. From there, the worms grow into an adult who can live for only five years and release millions more of the worms through the bloodstream, which means an infected person can infect thousands of others from mosquito bites.
Symptoms: Most infected people do not show any symptoms but when they do it including swelling of parts of the body, anywhere from limbs to genitalia. This leads to lower immune system leading a chance of secondary infections very high.
Ways to prevent: There is a blood test to successfully determine if somebody has this parasite, since repeated mosquito bites is required for this disease, short term visitors to infected countries or islands are safe. For those who live in those infected countries or islands, people should use mosquito repellent and be careful around hours where mosquitoes are most popular at.
Disease: Brain-eating disease
Location: Warm fresh water and soils around the water. The water basically includes lakes, hotsprings, and rivers. Can be anywhere where there is warm waters, mostly in Southern States of the USA, India, Middle East and other typical warm environment.
Terms of transferring: can only infect people through transferring through the nostrils to the brain so jumping in water, breathing in through the nose underwater, or using homemade nasal sprays without distilled water.
Life-cycle: this is a pretty dead-end parasite. A amobia enters the body through the nose and travel to the brain, from there it starts to eat away at the brain.
Symptoms: Before we get to symptoms, the mortality rate is 97% although to be fair, this is the most rare parasite that one can get averaging twenty cases total in over forty years. At first the symptoms mimics that of the common flu like headaches, vomiting, headache, fever, stiff neck, confusion, and memory loss. within mere days, looks more to be like like bacterial meningitis with seizure, lack of movement, lose speech, and lack of attention to surrounding. After that the only two more symptoms that are left are coma and death.
Ways to prevent: if swimming or hanging around warm fresh water, it is best to wear a noseplug and if you use nasal spray, make sure it is distilled water only.
There is so many parasites in this world that it is impossible to list them all in one article. There are some really spooky parasites that involves non-human contamination which I will be listing in my next hub because some of these are downright horrible and seems more like something you would see in a movie than real. For now, these in my opinion were the worst parasites a human can get. All parasites are actually bad and can cause a lot of issues however most are not fatal and although they have damage most can be repaired with the exception of some of them like the river blindness and the parasite that causes the skin to swell and stay swelled. I hope you liked this article and I hoped you learned something new or even learned of a parasite you did not know about before. Thanks for reading and please leave a comment below.
CDC (2014) Guinea worm Disease, CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/guineaworm/gen_info/faqs.html
CDC (2014) Lymphatic Filariasis, CDC http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lymphaticfilariasis/gen_info/faqs.html
CDC (2014) Toxoplasmosis, CDC http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/faqs.html
CDC (2014) Ascariasis, CDC http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/ascariasis/gen_info/faqs.html
CDC (2014) Naegleria Fowleri, CDC http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html
CDC (2014) Onchocerciasis, CDC http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/onchocerciasis/gen_info/faqs.html