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Echinococcosis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About echinococcosis

Echinococcosis also called ‘hydatid disease’ is a long-standing parasitic infection which is caused by the larva of the tapeworm parasite. This parasitic infection is usually seen in dogs and sheep but it may occasionally be transmitted to humans. If and when afflicted, it may lead to disastrous consequences in humans.

Echinococcosis: Incidence, age and sex

Echinococcosis is an extremely rare parasitic infection encountered in humans. It usually afflicts children and young adults, though the symptoms may appear years later. This parasitic infection is most commonly seen in some areas of New Zealand, Australia and Africa.

Signs and symptoms of echinococcosis: Diagnosis

Echinococcosis has a varied presentation which may differ from person to person. The clinical features may manifest due to cysts formation in different parts of body. The affected sites include liver and lungs which are most commonly affected as well as kidneys, spleen and brain. Cysts in the liver cause abdominal pain or blood in stools. Sometimes the affected individual may also exhibit jaundice which is characterised by yellowish discolouration of skin and white of eye. The cysts formation in the lungs may manifest with chest pain and cough with blood stained sputum. Other features are vague and include low grade fever, malaise and loss of weight.

Echinococcosis can be diagnosed by performing some serological tests which show the presence of antibodies against the parasite. The cysts can easily be detected by imaging modalities like X-ray, CT and MRI scan. Moreover the diagnosis can be established by microscopic and pathological evaluation of cystic fluid drained from the cysts.

Causes and prevention of echinococcosis

Echinococcosis is caused by ingesting eggs of the parasite Echinococcus by consuming contaminated water or food. Close contact with infected livestock may also lead to this infection. Echinococcosis spreads by faecal-oral route, thus causing increased chances of auto-infection.

Certain preventive measures like maintaining good personal hygiene, adequate sanitation, washing fruits and vegetables before eating and refraining from consumption of unclean food may go a long way in averting this parasitic infection. Furthermore, timely treatment of affected dogs and sheep may help to curb the spread of infection. Individuals from developed countries may get this infection while travelling through some places of Africa where echinococcosis is prevalent.

Echinococcosis: Complications

Echinococcosis is a serious infection which may result in life-threatening health hazards like respiratory failure, blood loss, shock and even death.

Echinococcosis: Treatment

Echinococcosis needs comprehensive evaluation by a specialist to detect afflicted areas of body. Medications like Albendazole and Mebendazole are generally prescribed in affected individuals. These medications are anti parasitic in effect and help to eliminate the offending parasite from body. Surgical intervention is needed in most of the cases to remove the cysts. In fact, the combined treatment of surgery and anti-parasitic drugs is the mainstay of the treatment. The prognosis of echinococcosis is poor since it has a high rate of mortality.