Echinococcosis is a parasitic infection caused by the larvae of tapeworms of the genus Echinococcus. There are two main types of echinococcosis: cystic echinococcosis (CE) and alveolar echinococcosis (AE).
- Cystic echinococcosis is caused by the larvae of Echinococcus granulosus, which is found in dogs and other canids. Humans become infected by ingesting the eggs of the parasite, which can be found in the feces of infected animals. The eggs can be found in soil, water, and food that has been contaminated with dog feces.
- Alveolar echinococcosis is caused by the larvae of Echinococcus multilocularis, which is found in foxes, coyotes, and other canids. Humans become infected by ingesting the eggs of the parasite, which can be found in the feces of infected animals. The eggs can be found in soil, water, and food that has been contaminated with dog feces.
Once the eggs are ingested, they hatch in the small intestine and the larvae migrate to other organs in the body, where they form cysts. The cysts can grow over time and can cause serious health problems, such as liver failure, lung damage, and brain cysts.
There is no vaccine for echinococcosis. Treatment depends on the type of echinococcosis and the severity of the infection. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the cysts. In other cases, medication may be used to kill the larvae.
To help prevent echinococcosis, it is important to:
- Avoid contact with dogs that have not been dewormed.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handling animals or their feces.
- Cook meat thoroughly before eating it.
- Avoid drinking water that may be contaminated with animal feces.
If you think you may have been infected with echinococcosis, see a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for preventing serious health problems.