Flatworm infestation

    • Brief

    • Flatworm infection (foodborne trematodiases) is a disease caused eating foods containing the eggs of this worm or the immature worms. The flatworms, when eaten, can seriously damage your liver, lungs and intestines. Visit your healthcare provider when you notice blood in your saliva or have serious pains in your belly (abdominal pain).

    • What are the symptoms?

    • Symptoms depend on the part of the body affected, they include:

      • Fever
      • Diarrhoea
      • Loss of appetite
      • Chest pain, cough and blood in your saliva.
      • Pain in your belly and indigestion.
      • Difficulty passing stools, pain in your belly and passing of gas.

    • What are the causes?

    • Infection with the flatworm is caused by eating food (like crabs and crayfish), drinking water or through soil carrying immature flatworms. These then develop and mature, spreading through the belly and intestine, sometimes reaching the lungs. They can lay eggs and survive for long in the lungs.

    • What are the things that put you at risk?

    • Your chance of getting such a food infection increases once you have one or more of the following risk factors:

      • Eating raw seafood such as fish, prawn and crabs or raw vegetables. Cooking seafood and vegetables properly helps kill the flatworms.
      • Drinking water from rivers, streams or lakes.
      • Living in communities surrounded by water, like in riverine areas (e.g. Niger Delta) or slums built on water (e.g. Makoko in Lagos).

    • When to visit a doctor?

    • You must visit your healthcare provider immediately when you notice any of the following:

      • Presence of blood in your saliva.
      • Serious pain in your belly that doesn’t get better after a few days.
      • Loss of appetite leading to loss of weight.

    • How to prevent?

    • You should make sure you practice good hygiene (especially hand washing) and eat only foods that are well cooked (especially seafood). Drink only water that has been boiled and cooled or water that has been made fit for drinking.

    • How to manage and treat?

    • Self-care tips:

      • Ensure that you wash and cook your seafood such as fish, crabs and crayfish properly before eating them. Do the same with your vegetables.
      • Avoid drinking water that is not clean. You can boil water before drinking or use cloth filters to eliminate the flatworms or their eggs.
      • Avoid using herbal remedies without first talking to your healthcare provider.

      Treatment options:

      • Your healthcare provider may give you medicines (e.g. praziquantel) that will kill the worms in your body.
      • To treat some complications of the infection, such as liver or intestinal damage, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery.

    • Kulawa cares

    • Practicing proper food safety and hygiene is very important in preventing this condition. Cook food properly before eating and make sure your water is clean and safe to drink by boiling your water or using clean cloth filters. In addition, store foods properly using a fridge and try to separate cooked foods from raw foods to avoid contamination.

      Using your medications is important in treating this food infection. Contact your healthcare provider if there is no improvement after using your medication as prescribed.