Karla News

Three Deadly Parasitic Diseases

Mosquito Repellents

This is part three of a multipart series on the World’s most devastating parasitic diseases. This article deals with three human parasitic diseases common to travelers in foreign countries and even at home.

African Sleeping Sickness – Trypanosomiasis

You have almost surely heard of African Sleeping Sickness. You probably have heard that it is transmitted by the tsetse fly. However, this is about all most people know about this disease. The parasite that is transmitted to the host in Trypanosomaisis gambiense a microscopic and very stubborn single cell parasite with a single cilia or hair like filament for mobility. This critter that that loves to hang out in the blood stream, in spinal fluid and in the lymphatic system of humans. This is what makes it so hard to treat. There is no vaccine and or preventative treatment and the cure requires hospitalization and up to two years of follow up via spinal taps (a very painful test).

The symptoms include the pain from the initial tsetse fly bite, followed in several weeks to several months by disorientation, tiredness, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, and even seizures. Untreated the victim will die in time but be bed ridden long before that. This is how the disease got the name of sleeping sickness.

There are about 100,000 cases of this disease annually but most victims die without reporting the disease to Doctors. This is due to the very poor level of health care in the areas most affected by this disease.

The best advice to travelers in the central portion of Africa is to avoid insects with netting and use as much effective insect repellent as possible. The traveler should stay out of the bush country as the flies rest on bush leaves and twigs until disturbed or hungry. Early treatment is better than waiting for the disease to take a foothold in virtually all of you body fluids.

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Elephantiasis – Lymphatic Filariasis

This unpleasant parasite also is spread mostly in Africa. It is a disease caused by one of several types of worms with an affinity for the lymphatic system. All are transmitted by mosquitoes. They include Wuchereria bancrofti, B. malayi and B. timori. Once in the human body these nasty worms head south to the gonads or legs of its victims. They block the flow of lymphatic fluids causing a major back up of this liquid in the organ affected. The diameter of the leg could swell to many times its normal circumference and appear almost as thick as an elephant’s leg. In fact this is how the disease got its name, elephantiasis. The gonads when affected can swell to the size of a soccer ball. These are not very pleasant sights to see and of cause much worse to have.

Treatment is easier if the disease is diagnosed and treated early. There are medications effective on filaria but often surgery is needed if the swelling has progressed to and advanced stage.

Luckily this disease is not that common. Conscientious use of mosquito repellents is a good prophylactic measure for the travelers to the southern and central African Continent.

Trichinosis – The Danger Within The Other White Meat

While undercooked pork is the most commonly associated vector of Trichinosis, it can be caught from eating other undercooked carnivorous predators as well. The first symptoms are usually similar to the Flu, GI upsets of all forms, fevers, headaches, cough, and joint and muscle pain. Sometimes death can result if left the victim is left untreated. Sometimes it runs its course and goes away, defeated by the body’s immune system.

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This is an easy disease to avoid in most circumstances. Cook pork well. There should be no pinkness showing in well cooked meat. Bear, seals, walrus, and cougar should be avoided (and usually are in most cases) or cooked very well to kill of the cysts which may be present in their muscle meat.