There are many different ways that worms can be transmitted to humans.
Parasitic worms live on the host’s food and tissues. They also
excrete their own waste products into their hosts, which can create
a number of health issues, some mild and some strong.
Here are some of the more usual ways that we can catch worms:
In the air we breathe
Sometimes, worm eggs are so small that they can only be seen using a microscope. Some of these very small eggs can get carried in the air by the wind, for example pin or thread worm eggs can be airborne.
Fleas, Flies and Mosquitoes can carry Parasites
Parasites have devised very clever survival techniques. For example, did you know that some parasites are so small that they can be carried to their hosts through flies, mosquitoes and fleas?
Some of the smallest known animals in the Animal Kingdom are called protozoa. Some protozoa are parasites. As is the case with African Sleeping Sickness which is transmitted through the biting Tsetse fly. This fly lives off from the blood from vertebrates and bites animals and humans. If the Tsetse fly is infected with the Sleeping Sickness parasite which has a long name called Trypanosoma, then the person or animal that is bitten will become infected.
Plasmodium is another micrsocopic parasite that infects humans through certain types of Mosquitoes and this causes Malaria. Malaria today is still responsible for many hundreds of thousands of lives per year and is caused by the smallest of parasites.
It is always wise to take precautions before travelling to places where Malaria infection is likely or high.
Pets often Carry Parasites
The pets we keep need to be wormed regularly as they are in regular contact with the earth and grass which may have parasitic eggs. Pets are also in regular contact with other pets who themselves may be infected with parasites. It is advisable to get your pets checked thoroughly with the vet as worms may harm the health of your pets.
Pets can become infected with worms by walking in infected faeces. The eggs or worms then enter their bodies when the animal licks its paws to clean themselves.
Pets can also get worms when they eat soil that is infected with worm eggs.
Kittens and puppies can often get infected when they are suckling from a contaminated mother. It is best to keep pets off food surfaces and for them to have their own sleeping areas so you can minimise possible infection from them.
Pets also can become infected by eating a mouse or bird that is infected with worms. It is possible for pets and animals to be carriers of more than one type of worm, so it is best to have them checked for the different worms by the vet.
Wash Fruit and Vegetables thoroughly
Fruit and vegetables can be grown near or in contaminated soil. They can also be picked by people who have contaminated soil on their hands. It is always best to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly.
Wash Your Hands & Nails before preparing Food
Always wash your hands and nails thoroughly before preparing food, especially if you work outside or get soil under your nails. Insist that people who prepare your food also follow a sensible guide to clean hands, clean nails before preparing food.
The food we eat can often be a source of parasites, such as uncooked beef, pork, poultry and fish. Fruit and vegetables can also harbour parasites.
Water supplies can transit parasites. Parasites are also known to occur in mud pools, streams, rivers and other standing pools of water, which can penetrate the skin.
Pets and Animals are Carriers of Worm Eggs
There are several types of worms that can be transmitted from pets to humans and these are most commonly called roundworms, ringworms or tapeworms.
How we can Catch Tapeworm Parasites
Tapeworm parasites are often carried to humans through undercooked and contaminated meat - mainly beef, pork and fish – or through eating contaminated soil or water. Fish, pigs and cattle can often drink water that is contaminated with tapeworm eggs and if we eat the flesh of a contaminated animal, then we can get tapeworms.
Tapeworms have a complex life cycle, their eggs turn into cysts when they are consumed by an intermediate host such as cows, pigs or fish. A cyst is the tough, protective capsule enclosing the larva of a parasitic worm. These cysts remain dormant in the intermediate host until they are consumed by a human when they will then become adults.
If we eat raw or incompletely cooked meat containing these cysts, the larvae become active within the human host. Once inside the intestine of the new host, they latch onto the intestinal wall and grow into adult worms.
Fruit and vegetables we eat can be grown or have contaminated soil near them from animal feces. This is why it is so important to thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables before eating them. It is also possible that tapeworms embed their eggs in human host organs such as the liver, lungs, heart, and also the brain.
Parasites have extraordinary survival skills and can live within their hosts up to several years. There have even been recorded cases of tapeworms well over 20 years old, living inside people.
More Info on Pinworms
Pinworm eggs can easily become airborne and this most often happens when we shake the clothes or bedding of someone who has pinworms, then the eggs can be lifted into the air and carried along.
Pinworm eggs can not only be inhaled from the air but can also land on food that we eat or on clothes or from bedding.
Pinworms are small, thin, white worms up to up to half a centimetre long, sometimes longer. They are easily passed from person to person, even though their life cycle only usually lasts 2 weeks. While pinworms are not a dangerous worm in terms of health, they can be irritating; cause skin conditions and can be tricky to get rid of.
Pinworms live in the human intestine and lay their eggs on the skin around the rectum. Pinworms are more usually found in children but also occur in adults.
At room temperature, pinworm eggs have been known to survive outside the intestine for up to 2 weeks. Pinworm eggs hatch where the eggs are laid, then they move into the lower intestine where they grow to adult size.
Pinworms grow to adult size between 2-6 weeks. Pinworm infection can
be spread by the worms or through the eggs.
Worms transmitted by Contact
How we can Catch Pinworms
Pinworms can be transmitted by contact and here is how. When pinworms lay their eggs, the skin in this area becomes itchy. By scratching, the small pinworm eggs can gather under fingernails or on fingers and then scratching can pass on the eggs on to others through touch and contact.
Most parasitic infections come from our food and water sources but can also be transmitted by human or animal contact.
Simply petting and grooming our pets can increase the chances of infection, the parasites' eggs passing from their fur to our hands, nose and mouth. Quite a number of parasites common to cats and dogs can also survive quite happily inside a human body.
Pinworms are also sometimes called threadworms. Pinworm eggs end up on most surfaces that people who have them touch. This means that pinworms can often end up on the following:
- Bed linen
- Drinking glasses
- Eating utensils
Pinworms are not very long, mostly about the size of a staple and we become infected by them by digesting their eggs. Pinworms only come from other humans, not from pets. Their eggs hatch in the small intestine and then move on to the large intestine where they grow into adults.
Pinworm eggs are too small to be seen without a microscope but the
actual worms can often be seen and look like pieces of white thread
or string. The female pinworms move out of the large intestine at night
and lay their eggs around the anus, hence the itching that is symptomatic
Some Symptoms of Parasite and Worm Infections
- Itching around the anus.
- Sleeplessness due to itching.
- Increased irritability due to sleeplessness.
- In extreme cases, loss of appetite.
How to reduce the chances of getting Pinworms
- Regular handwashing and scrubbing under the nails.
- Try to minimise scratching an infected area.
- Regularly change sheets and pillow cases and bedding if there if anyone has pinworms in the house.
- Regular showering to wash away eggs and keep body clean.