Ascariasis the disease is caused by an intestinal parasite commonly known as roundworms, or Ascaris. The roundworm is a pale white, slender long tube-like worm that lives in people’s intestines. The roundworm is present in the faeces of a person infected with it, in the form of eggs. In humans, flies generally considered the vector of roundworms. Roundworms are usually asymptomatic, but symptoms may appear depending on the person’s number of roundworms. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, malnutrition, abdominal swelling and diarrhoea. Children are the most affected by this infection. The Ascaris affect about 0.8 to 1.2 billion people worldwide, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Symptoms of ascariasis range from mild to serious. These include the following:
- Abdominal pain (from mild to severe)
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Weight loss
- Passing worms in stool
When to seek medical attention
If you have any ascariasis symptoms, call your health care provider. Particularly if you have travelled to an area where the disease is common. Also, call if you have any of the following:
- Symptoms get worse
- Symptoms do not improve with treatment
- New symptoms occur
Causes of Ascariasis
Children may be contaminated by playing with soil or plants and putting their hands in their mouths.
Human faeces can cause pollution if the infected individual defecates in the vicinity of a farming field or water source or if they use untreated faeces as a crop fertilizer.
A person can contract ascariasis by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, particularly if the food or their hands are not washed properly.
Risk factors for ascariasis include:
- Age: Most ascariasis sufferers are 10 years of age or younger. During this age group children could be at greater risk as they are more likely to play in the dirt.
- Warm climate: Ascariasis is the Southeast is more prevalent in the United State. But it’s more frequent in developing countries with warm temperatures year-round.
- Poor sanitation: Throughout developing countries, ascariasis is common where human faeces are permitted to mix with local soil.
What are the complications of ascariasis?
The majorities of cases of ascariasis are mild and cause no big problems. However, heavy infestations can spread to other parts of the body and lead to dangerous complications, including:
- Intestinal blockage. Intestinal blockage occurs when the intestines are blocked by a mass of worms, causing intense pain and nausea. Intestinal blockage is considered a medical emergency and requires treatment right away.
- Duct blockage. Duct blockage occurs when the worms block the small passageways to your liver or pancreas.
- Nutritional deficiency. Infections that lead to loss of appetite and poor absorption of nutrients put children at risk of not getting enough nutrients, which can affect their growth.
Children are more likely to have gastrointestinal complications because of the smaller size of their intestines increases their chances of having an intestinal blockage.
People who live in modern sanitation place have a very low risk of ascariasis. However, it is essential to wash food properly and wash hands after using the bathroom.
After through use, people should wash any utensils and cooking surfaces too.
When visiting a region with a lack of sanitary facilities, a person should take the following precautions to help avoid infection:
- Filter and boil water before drinking it.
- Avoid using bathing areas, mainly when they are not clean.
- Avoid contact with soil that could be polluted with human faecal matter (“night soil”) used for fertilizing crops
- Peel and cook any vegetables or fruit grown in unsanitary conditions.
- Make sure that your children clean their hands with warm water and soap before eating.
- Observe and inspect the cleanliness of food storage areas.
- Wash your hands with soap and hot water especially when you prepare and eat food.
- Guide your kids that wash hand helps to prevent infection.
- Thoroughly wash, peel, and cook all raw vegetables and fruits.
- Drink bottled water.
- Keep your fingernails trimmed.
- Clean your clothing and bedding regularly.