What is echinococcosis?
Echinococcosis is an infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with eggs of the Echinococcus worm. This microscopic worm is a tapeworm that is often found in dogs and common livestock, especially sheep.
Although infection in humans is rare, it can be severe. After eating the eggs of the tapeworm, this is housed in the organs (lungs, brain and liver) and may cause the formation of large cysts.
If left untreated, a person can die from this infection. Echinococcosis is also called hydatid disease.
What are the symptoms of echinococcosis?
Echinococcosis may not produce any symptoms for 10 or 20 years because the cysts grow slowly. When symptoms appear, it may include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Chest pain.
- Cough that does not go away.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
- Bloody stools.
How is echinococcosis treated?
Treatment for this disease depends on where the cysts that are causing problems are located. Drugs that treat infections include albendazole, mebendazole and praziquantel. You may need surgery to remove cysts in severe cases. You may need medicines to prevent tapeworms from reappearring.