Parasites exist around the world, but types of parasites vary by region. A parasite such as lung fluke may be more prevalent in Southeast Asia than in North America. With Parasites come parasitic diseases. They can range from relatively benign and innocuous, to irritating and uncomfortable, to fatal. These are some of those found here in Hong Kong.
Some Common Parasitic Diseases
These are just a few of the most common parasitic diseases; this list is by no means complete. Pay particular attention to their causes.
Roughly 20 million people globally suffer from paragonimiasis. This parasitic disease is common in Southeast Asia, and is caused by Paragonnimus westermani, or lung fluke. Also called flatworm, lung fluke is carried in crustaceans. As with many parasites, westermani can be killed through proper cooking. If consumed in undercooked food, the parasite migrates from the digestive tract to the lungs. Because of this, it can be mistaken for tuberculosis. Symptoms include coughing and fever, which usually occur between six and twelve weeks after infection.
The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is responsible for this illness. It can be contracted by eating uncooked meat and vegetables that have come into contact with gondii. While it can be passed through blood transfusions and even organ transplants, its typical method is through cat droppings. Toxoplasma infects cat intestines and emerges in their scat, which can then pollute a water supply.
While most people don’t develop symptoms, those with compromised immune systems can be at serious risk. In this case, toxoplasmosis can appear flu-like. Pregnant women who become infected can pass the infection to their unborn offspring.
Angiostrongylus cantonensis is a roundworm whose larvae live in snails, slugs, crabs, shrimp, and other freshwater crustaceans and mollusks. They can invade the human body through undercooked food. The larvae can make their way into the brain, causing meninges or inflammation. In fact, parasites of the genus Angiostrongylus cause the majority of cases of meningitis and meningoencephalitis. If undiagnosed and untreated, these illnesses can be fatal.
The microscopic parasite Giardia lamblia causes a condition called Giardiasis. Its sufferers contract it by eating contaminated food or water. The most common way of becoming infected is through drinking contaminated water. For this reason, we often find Giardia in developing countries where overcrowding persists. However, as with other parasites, pets can also carry Giardia and infect humans, and humans infected with Giardia can pass the parasites on to others.
Once these microscopic parasites enter the body, they take up residence in the small intestine. Symptoms of giardiasis include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and abdominal cramps.
Coping With Parasites
These parasite examples are all found in Hong Kong, as well in many other locations worldwide. If you suspect you have encountered any of these, consult your medical practitioner immediately. We’re right here in Hong Kong Central and can help you with laboratory tests to properly diagnose a parasitic infection. Just call the office for an appointment.
There are treatments available for all of these parasitic diseases, but it’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible. If you have a compromised immune system, it is especially important to contact your doctor quickly, as the infection can be particularly challenging.