parasites in humans

Avoid Tapeworms and Parasites!

These eight nasty critters may be closer than you think, but you can protect yourself.

Mmmm, parasites. Who wants to hear about roundworms, tapeworms, and other tiny critters that live in your food and water? In some cases, parasites can actually be beneficial, keeping insects from devouring crops and diseases from spreading. But you still don't want them in your food—or anywhere near your house—and based on recent reports to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), intestinal parasites in humans could be on the rise, thanks to climate change, increased international travel, and a number of other factors. In the past few years, scientists have been outlining an unusual rise in parasitic infections that live in everything from drinking water to the ironically named kissing bug to salmon raised in Latin America.

Before you give up your outdoor hikes or your sushi, however, keep in mind that there are other, more damaging parasites you need to be worried about.

Drinking Water

The stomach-churning facts: The two most common parasites in this country, according to CDC data, are frequently found in contaminated water: giardia, which infects 2 million people every year, and cryptosporidium, which infects 300,000 annually. Both inflict diarrheal diseases and are contracted by coming into contact with infected stools, whether through water we drink or in swimming pools or other recreational water facilities. Another similar parasite, cyclospora, is contracted the same way but is less common than the other two.

How to protect yourself: Pay attention to bulletins about local drinking water quality, and always follow orders to boil water when you hear about them. Don't swallow water at swimming pools (and do your part by always bathing before taking a dip).

Undercooked Meat

The stomach-churning facts: Raw or undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb, or venison, is a frequent source of the third most common intestinal parasite seen in this country, toxoplasma. It's estimated that 60 million people carry the parasite, of whom 1.5 million actually get infected with toxoplasmosis every year, but most people who are infected aren't even aware of it. It's also the third-leading cause of death from foodborne illness.

Eating undercooked pork is also how people most often contract the intestinal parasites Trichinella, roundworms that live in the muscle tissue of meat-eating animals, and Taenia, a tapeworm that can grow up to 23 feet long. There aren't any hard figures for tapeworm infections in the U.S., but Taenia is one of the most common culprits, according to the CDC. Taenia parasites also cause another disease, cysticercosis, which you contract from the larval cysts of the tapeworm. They can infect brain and muscle tissue and are a major cause of adult-onset seizures in most low-income countries. But you don't have to live in a low-income country to catch this unfortunate infection, which has been targeted by the CDC as one of five Neglected Parasitic Infections that require prompt public health action. Infected food workers who haven't washed their hands can pass along cysticercosis (Could Your Kitchen Pass a Public Health Inspection?).

How to protect yourself: Cooking your pork, lamb, or venison to an internal temperature of 160 degrees should kill off any wrigglies in the meat. And don't eat bear, cougar, fox, dog, wolf, horse, seal, or walrus meat—they all harbor Trichinella, as well.

Unwashed Produce

The stomach-churning facts: The same parasites that infect your drinking water can infect your produce, too. They're spread by contaminated water used to irrigate the crops. While E. coli bacteria usually cause the most publicized cases of contaminated crops, giardia and cryptosporidium can also be found in produce. The roundworm Ascaris, the most common cause of human worm infections, has been found on unwashed lettuce and other kinds of produce irrigated with water contaminated by human or pig feces. It isn't common in the U.S., but a few cases have been reported in rural areas.

How to protect yourself: Wash your hands thoroughly before handling fruits and vegetables, and wash your produce with a solution of 1 part vinegar and 9 parts water to kill germs. (Also, shop smart to Avoid Getting Sick from the Top 10 'Riskiest Foods').

Undercooked Salmon

The stomach-churning facts: That tasty piece of raw sushi on your plate may be harboring another kind of tapeworm, Diphylobothrium, also called the salmon tapeworm. While infections of this type are rare in the U.S., they've been on the rise in Asia and Latin America, where raw sushi and ceviche are eaten regularly. In Japan, the number of cases went from virtually zero in the late 1990s to 15 per year in 2008, and in Brazil, there was one case of Diphylobothrium infection between 1998 and 2003, but 18 between 2004 and 2005.

How to protect yourself: A spokesperson from the CDC told us that sushi chefs are taught to recognize infected fish and that eating at a high-quality sushi restaurant shouldn't put you at risk. That being said, you might want to stick with cooked-fish sushi; just be sure to buy species that are responsibly harvested and don't contain high levels of environmental pollutants like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (aka PCBs). (Find the best choices at

Your Cat

The stomach-churning facts: Unless you eat your cat, you won't be exposed to parasites like Trichinella or Diphylobothrium, but cleaning up after kitty may expose you to toxoplasma, which lives in cat feces. In addition to triggering miscarriage in pregnant women, a recent study from Denmark found that all women, pregnant or not, exposed to the parasite could be at risk of suicide, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders. Women in the study who'd been exposed to toxoplasma were 53 percent more likely to attempt suicide than women who hadn't, and the risk of suicide went up with the levels of parasites in the body.

How to protect yourself: Change the litter box regularly, and wash your hands with soap and water immediately afterward (it also helps to wear gloves). If you can't keep your cat indoors, keep sandboxes covered and wash your hands after gardening or handling soil that could be contaminated with cat poop. And if you're pregnant, stay away from litter boxes. One bit of good news for cat lovers: Though toxoplasmosis, the disease caused by toxoplasma, is a real risk from cat waste, the most common source of exposure remains undercooked pork, even for cat owners. (What else do you need to know about your pets? These 9 Pet Myths Debunked will tell you.)

Your Bedroom

The stomach-churning facts: Good night, good night, don't let the kissing bugs, um, do their thing. These ironically named bugs, so called because they latch on and bite humans around the mouth, are vectors of a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas' disease, a parasitic infection that, if left untreated, can lead to chronic heart disease and problems with your colon and digestive system. The disease is pretty rare in the U.S., but a recent CDC analysis found that the number of kissing bugs in the U.S. infected with the parasite is growing due to climate change, and agency researchers suspect that the transmission of Chagas' disease to humans will increase, too. CDC listed it among its Neglected Parasitic Infections to research.

How to protect yourself: Kissing bugs are drawn to light at night and can easily maneuver under doors and into your bed or your pet's. Shut off unnecessary lights in your home at night. And if you're camping in the southern sections of the country, where kissing bugs are more common, opt for a tent with screens, and make sure you close them at night.

Your Weekend Hike

The stomach-churning facts: Ticks—they're tiny, disgusting, and vectors for multiple parasites. In fact, ticks aren't even classified as insects; they're known in the scientific world as ecto-parasites. There are 840 species of them on the planet, and many are known to cause bacterial diseases (like Lyme disease) and viral illnesses (like Colorado tick fever). But the CDC is particularly concerned about an infection called babesiosis, caused by the Babesia microti parasite that infects red blood cells. A malaria-like ailment with symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, nausea, muscle pains, fatigue, and even anxiety and panic, babesiosis has seen a 20-fold increase between 2001 and 2008 in some Northeastern states, according to CDC data. Because of climate change, warmer winters, and a decline in the number of natural predators, the agency expects the incidence to rise even further.

How to protect yourself: Preventing babesiosis means preventing tick bites. Try these 5 Ways to Keep Ticks out of Your Yard, and when hiking in areas where babesiosis is problematic—primarily New England, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Wisconsin—use an insect repellent containing DEET. Although the ingredient can be harmful, DEET-based repellents are the most effective against ticks. Spray the chemical only on your clothing (not on exposed skin) and choose a product with the lowest concentration you can find.

Your Cousin Who's Always Borrowing Money

The stomach-churning facts: Perhaps the most difficult parasite to get rid of, financially dependent relatives can make you feel like there's a tapeworm living in your bank account. Most financial advisers will tell you that lending money to family members is a bad idea on all fronts, but considering our current economic climate, sympathy may trump good judgment.

How to protect yourself: If you have to do it, here are a few tips:

• Be clear that you expect to get paid back. Family loans may inadvertently turn into gifts, unless you set ground rules from the get-go. Set up a pay schedule that defines how much you expect at what time of the month.

• Draw up a contract. Look for financial institutions online to find one that can help facilitate small personal loans. Making the loan more formal can make your relative more inclined to pay it back, and some of these agencies can set up automatic withdrawals, helping to underscore the expectation that you expect a payback.

• Don't lend money you can't afford to lose. You might feel inclined to pass along a few hundred bucks to a cousin in need, but if you're dipping into your own rainy-day fund, you could end up the loser in the deal if you're later hit by an unexpected crisis.


Published on: July 18, 2012

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I just happened upon your post when I was leaving one regarding Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases here in the Northeast.You didn't say where you lived. Just wondering if you ever got a diagnosis for your daughter? I had a friend who was just diagnosed with scabies from being around farm animals. It's always something. Hope your daughter is well.

Ha ha!

I cracked up when I came to #6. Ain't it the truth! But I even had everything in writing -- what do you do then, sell the loan to a bill collector for ten cents on the dollar, and burn that bridge with your neighbour or friend?

First off, I agree: make everything formal on the outside, write it up all legal, make it clear you expect to be paid back according to terms, perhaps even put in the contract some penalty if it is not.

Second off, inside your own heart, be prepared to never see that money again. That's where I am on a loan to "friends" that was supposed to be until they "got over a rough patch" and has now gone on for 18 years. Some "rough patch."

parasites & cysts in the brain & other parts of the body

I developed a parasite when I went to Uganda in 2000. It took 2 years to get rid of it. I heard that parasites can cause cysts. Is that true? One was removed from my optic nerve in June this year. I also have some on my liver and kidney. One Dr. called them cysts, but another named the liver and kidney ones "leasions." Should I be tested to see if I have another parasite? I was prescribed medicine after being hit with another issue in Uganda May 2008. I feel fine now, but seem to get urine infections easily--1-2/year.

Thank you,

evacuation of worms whileeliminating

when I was child I had a large elimination of worms not sure if they were tapes or what. I never had them treated, could I still have them as an adult?


Sounds like a job for Dr. House. Seriously, get your daughter to a major research medical center, like UCLA, U of Utah, etc, and don't take "we've done all we can" as an answer.

Abdominal Pain in the middle where the stomach is!

In april & may this year I was diagnosed with Diverticuloses @ the Illium also mild Cholestral & mild Blood Glucose which the Doctor put me on Plavic & Actos. I refused Taking both of them as the side effect of heart problems was listed and I wasn't going to tempt fate! Istarted taking Cholestral Essential and Senema Silvestre and it has been helping along with some other herbals . It takes about 1 to 2 hrs.when waking in the morning beforeThe abdominal pain lets up. when retiring at night I feel okay But when I arise in the morning it feels like my abdomin has been pushed into my chest! I'm also losing weight Rapidly,like the Nutrients from the food I eat is not being absorbed in the intestines . I started a wormwood & clove regimin for the parasites . I need to get some black Walnut extract to kill any other parasites in me .this therapy is from Hulda Clark . Can you reccomend any other treatment?buckley-

Parasite comments

I get the impression that everyone commenting here is trying to help. Be nice! When folks are trying to help, even if you disagree with them, you don't need to be snide or petty about it!
I'm sure none of us have all the answers or we would be accepting a Nobel Prize insteading on sniping at each other in comments!

Good advise misinterpreted

When someone refers to 'sugars' they are not referring to the breakdown of molecules...they are referring to processed sugars mainly and sometimes fruits, there are some conditions (including diabetes) when all kinds of sugars have to be monitored.

I'm never surprised to see information twisted, even for the ones that called themselves knowleageable. The above advise is sound advise and it goes in the order that is spelles. Silver is an anti-biotic. Citricidal is a powerful antibiotic that is supposed to kill virus in contact, of course, if you are into science like I'm you understand that what is done in vitro doesn't mean the same reacion in the body, but this goes for everymedicine in the world. No need to twist a good advice. When we think we know it all, that is when we find out how much we don't know. And it is so refreshing to know that someone took the time to type that much in consideration to a child htat is not even hers.

coconut milk?

I appreciate the input and concern of the community here and am glad to report she is fine and has returned to her usual self.
I did want to note however that the 'substance' that comes from a coconut is NOT COCONUT MILK.
Coconut milk is a processed extraction made from the meat of the coconut.
Again, I also know from taking MANY science classes that things do not 'live off of sweets". Plants make their own sugars and other organisms live off of those sugars - save some very weird extremeophiles- The cycle for reproduction is the same for most cellular things. If you deny a source for the bad you also deny it for the good. Enzymes effect thier repoduction.
She also did not have a bacterial infection. And what do you think is microbial? Everything is "microbial..."
I try to use natural substances, I do not use pesticides but I also do not like to get information from those that just know how to repeat what they have heard or been told from some 'health food person'. Much of that is like medieval medicine. Won't help but it can't hurt? I research EVERYTHING. I have plant and herb books that tell of the science behind the plants, and know that so much of what is sold in 'health stores' to be junk. Sad, because so much of the misinformation clouds the truth. Just like in pesticides remember those of you who ohh and ahh over health food store info that to kill the bad you also usually kill the good. Which is why so many get yeast infections on anti biotic. ( use probiotics like in yogurt to help with it) You kill the bad things but the good ones also that keep your colon and bladder healthy. Don't self medicate yourself because you heard it was 'good for it' or this person swears by it, because it is 'natural'- so are a lot of things which are poisons. Silver is not listed as a nutrient your body uses and can cause kidney damage. Speak that which YOU KNOW- not which you have only heard.

Your daughter

An ounce of prevention -even if you do not have a diagnosis: what follows is a suggestion:

1) Go to the health food store and buy Citricidal (grapefruit seed extract) it is an anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti- bacterial and safe liquid supplement - put 5-15 in water or grapefruit juice and take a few times a day. Also wash your
fruits in vegetables in a solution of it (read LABEL before
eating or cooking.

2) Get some colloidal silver (Silver Wings) is a good one and
take according to the label instructions. It is anti-viral.

3) Buy some "young coconuts" - this is messier but more fun as it is delicious - they are white - not the brown kind of coconut.
can get at Whole Foods or a local healthy mart or a co-op - call and see if they have it. With a cleaver open it up (have a bowl nearby to catch the coconut milk which may drip as you cut it open - then blend the soft coconut meat inside with the liquid - you will have a delicious smoothy AND it is anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial. If you don't believe me get a copy of the book "The Coconut Miracle" by Bruce Fife, C.N, N.D.

4) Avoid ALL SUGARS, FLOWER PRODUCTS, BAKED GOODS and temporarily even sweet fruits, pastas, breads and anything
containing a sweetener of any kind. Sweet feeds pathogens.

5) Drink pau d'arco tea - not weak tea bags but the bark - sold in health food stores.

6) Make sure that she is not constipated because if she is the pathogens will remain in the colon. Take some Laci le Beau tea
to purge the system after doing the above.

If it is a pathogen, she will be VERRRY happy. If not, the above can only help !!

Good luck and let me know.


Number 6...hilarious! Didn't see that coming!


Sounds like a job for Dr. House. Seriously, get your daughter to a major research medical center, like UCLA, U of Utah, etc, and don't take "we've done all we can" as an answer.


lol.. the last one just made me laugh...
On a serious note I am checking on some reason for my daughter's illness. High fever, very high...and basic muscle aches and red feverish eyes. Ruled out Lyme disease.. not bacterial. No cases of West Nile any where within six states around us, and doesn't have symptoms of Kawasaki disease, has had fips and measles shots. (long time ago.) Works a lot with animals, petting/breeding zoo, and a vets office plus of course lab at the University. (out for summer) but has extra precautionary vaccines due to this fact- also a while ago so not a reaction from them. baffled.

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