You can love your dog, but kissing them is not always a good idea as that is exactly how parasites end up in the owner's body.
Date: 06 July 2018 By: Jo Robinson
“Your child has worms!”
This is probably one of the scariest things you can tell a parent. Perhaps, if you want to create more panic, you can add “And you have worms too!”
Ironically enough, this is not a strange occurrence in the Soutpansberg. Whether the term “worms” refers to threadworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms or hookworms, we have to deal with the problem. Just the thought of the squirmy little (or sometimes not) creatures infesting one’s body is enough to cause nightmares for years to come, but they live among us and we have to try and avoid them.
It may not be commonly known, but doctors do recommend preventative deworming in humans. Every single local health professional the newspaper queried in town agreed on the dosage and time frame.
Dr N Makatu, who specialises in occupational medicine, recommended a twice-per-annum preventative deworming for families, as did Dr G E Kloppers, veterinarian at the Blouberg Animal Clinic, and a local pharmacist.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that “soil-transmitted helminths – which include roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworms (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale) – are among the most common causes of infection in people…”
More common to city-dwelling lifestyles such as ours is transmission of parasites via our pets, so we asked the vet, Dr Kloppers, for more information about this. He also shared some other common problems that can arise from our close interactions with our pets and that require treatment.
“Ringworm is not a worm, but a parasitic, microscopic fungus. It manifests as a dark pink and itchy circle on the skin,” said Kloppers. He added that infected cat bites and scratches could cause bacterial infection in humans, and that if you suspected such that you should “go to your doctor for treatment.” He said that giardia infestations and salmonella could also be passed from pets to people, but that regular preventative treatment could help with avoiding such things.
“Of course, my family take preventative measures and deworm regularly,” he said. He added that pet owners were usually very responsible when it came to regularly deworming their animals, but that people should definitely be taking the same precautions with their families.
Kloppers said that toddlers in particular got close to the ground. Sandboxes in playgrounds and preschools – everything gets tasted; even soil. When children are a little older, they play in gardens and other outdoor areas. “Parasites and worms are easily picked up this way via mouth, nose, or skin,” he said.
Pets are also very effective hosts for these critters, and all of us who live in close proximity to them are fair game as far as these unwanted passengers go. Many owners regularly deworm their pets, but never their children or themselves, thinking that keeping their animals free of parasites is enough to keep them all safe. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are with your family and home, not everyone else wherever you happen to go during your day-to-day activities will also be.
“Schools are notorious for the spreading of all sorts of things,” said Klopper. He urged the public to go and seek medical attention if they suspect that they or any members of their family have been infected with worms.
The WHO recommend the drugs Albendazole 400 mg and Mebendazole 500 mg as “effective, inexpensive and easy to administer by non-medical personnel (e.g. teachers). They have been through extensive safety testing and have been used in millions of people with few and minor side-effects.”
We asked local pharmacist Mr Louis van den Heever for the best preventative treatments. “It is best to take the three-day course, as prescribed, twice per annum, although not for children younger than two years old … For adults who aren’t willing to take the three-day course for any reason, there is also a single dose available, so it is not at all difficult to do,” said Van den Heever.
Quite a lot of mostly unseen parasites are around us, in us, and on us. A disturbing thought to some, but not all of them are harmful to humans; some are actually beneficial. “Mainly we should be concerned with roundworms and flatworms,” said Van den Heever. They are so named for their shape. They all have different methods of reproduction, and some can end up in surprising parts of the human anatomy and cause severe trauma to their hosts, both physically and mentally, so this is definitely not a part of your family’s health that you should avoid looking into.
A few tips given by those interviewed to lessen the possibility of infection are firstly to make sure that the water you drink is clean. Secondly, wash foods that you are going to consume raw very well. Thirdly, wash your hands after touching anything that could possibly be a source, such as a pet. Certain parasites use various modes of travel during their cycles, such as animal fur or saliva. Lastly, wear shoes in outside spaces that could host these pests as some parasites can and definitely do enter their hosts through the skin of their feet.
Jo joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2018 pursuing a career in journalism after many years of writing fiction and non-fiction for other sectors.