Parasites are invading our country.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, parasites may be present in food or in water and can cause disease. Ranging in size from tiny, single-celled organisms to worms visible to the naked eye. They are more and more frequently being identified as
of food-borne illness in the United States. The illnesses they can cause range from mild discomfort to debilitating illness and possibly death.
What are they?
They are organisms that derive nourishment and protection from other living organisms known as hosts. They may be transmitted from animals to humans, from humans to humans, or from humans to animals. Several have emerged as significant causes of food-borne and waterborne disease. These organisms live and reproduce within the tissues and organs of infected human and animal hosts, and are often excreted in feces.
How are they transmitted?
They may be transmitted from host to host through consumption of contaminated food and water, or by putting anything into your mouth that has touched the stool (feces) of an infected person or animal.
How do they vary?
There are of different types and range in size from tiny, single-celled, microscopic organisms (protozoa) to larger, multi-cellular worms (helminths) that may be seen without a microscope.
What are the most common?
Some common parasites are Giardia duodenalis, Cryptosporidium parvum, Cyclospora cayetanensis, Toxoplasma gondii, Trichinella spiralis, Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm), and Taenia solium (pork tapeworm).
United States Department of Agriculture. Fact Sheets. [Online] Available http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Parasites_and_Foodborne_Illness/index.asp, June 7, 2008.
Two of the most damaging human parasites are the protozoan Plasmodium that causes malaria and the flatworm Schistosoma that causes schistosomiasis. There are an estimated 400 million to 600 million cases of malaria each year and 200 million cases of schistosomiasis worldwide.
Mosquitoes from one person to another in their bites transmit the most common single-celled parasite, Plasmodium. Malaria is characterized by periodic bouts of severe chills and high fever. Serious cases of malaria can result in death if left untreated. More than a million people die of the disease each year, most of them in Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Malaria was once widespread in North America. Today, the disease occurs mostly in tropical and subtropical regions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The disease is also found in Central and South America, Oceania, and on some Caribbean Islands. Public health officials had hoped to wipe out malaria during the 20th century. However, malaria parasites have developed defenses against many antimalarial drugs. This response, known as drug resistance, makes the drugs less effective. In addition, the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit the disease have become resistant to many insecticides. Malaria remains a global health problem, and public health efforts today focus on controlling it. In addition, a worldwide effort is under way to develop a vaccine that protects people against the disease. "Malaria," Microsoft(r) Encarta(r) Online Encyclopedia 2008http://encarta.msn.com (c) 1997-2008 Microsoft Corporation.
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