A hookworm is a parasitic worm that lives in the human intestines. A hookworm causes diarrhea and stomach cramps. A severe hookworm infection may be dangerous to babies, children, malnourished persons and pregnant women. Infections tend to happen in subtropical and tropical locations. It is estimated that approximately a billion people in the world have Hookworm Infection, making it approximately 1/5 of the global population.
Ancylostoma duodenale is one of the most prevalent species of hookworms. The species is found in northern Africa, southern Europe, South America, and northern Asia. Necator americanus is another common species which caused widespread infection in southeastern parts of America during the beginnings of the 20th century. In reaction to the widespread infection, The Rockerfeller Sanitary Commission was established and is credited for eradicating most of the infection.
People get Hookworm Infection when they make physical contact with soil that is contaminated. This often happens because people walk barefooted or consume contaminated soil. The life cycle of the hookworm begins as an egg that needs a humid, warm, but shaded soil in order to hatch. When eggs are hatched, the larvae penetrate the skin of the host and travel to the lungs, the respiratory tract, the mouth, then are swallowed in order to reach the small intestine. This process takes approximately seven days. Once they have reached the small intestines, the larvae develop into adult worms that are about half an inch in length. They attach to the walls of the small intestines and consume blood and produce eggs. The eggs are expelled through the feces beginning the cycle again.
Anyone who makes physical contact with contaminated soil can become infected. Children are in a high risk group because they often play with soil and travel in soil barefoot. Hookworm cannot be spread from one individual to another because the larvae need time to mature in the earth. Thus, people are not at risk by coming in contact with an infected child at school or elsewhere.
The symptoms of hookworm entail a skin rash where infection occurred and itching as the larvae enter through the skin of the host. A mild Hookworm Infection may not have any symptoms, but more severe infections can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, anaemia, weak appetite, and loss of weight. Extreme cases may result in detriment to mental development and growth.
Anemia and protein deficiencies are the most dangerous health problems that can be caused by Hookworm Infection. Especially in children, such complications could stunt their growth and deter their mental development due to the loss of protein and iron. Unfortunately, such issues may become chronic and permanent. Other symptoms of Hookworm Infection may include fatigue, breathing problems, irregular heartbeat, and an enlarged heart. In infants especially, Hookworm Infection can be fatal.
If you suspect that you have Hookworm Infection, contact your doctor immediately so that your doctor can make a diagnosis using a stool sample. If the infection is very light, you may not require any treatment. Hookworm Infection is usually treated for up to three days with prescription medication in the United States. There are mild side effects and the drugs are extremely effective. For young children under two years of age, your doctor may seek alternative methods of treatment. Up to two weeks after the treatment, you will need to have another stool exam. If you are still infected, you will need to start treatment again and if you are experiencing low iron, you will need iron supplements for anaemia. To prevent getting Hookworm Infection, do not walk with your feet bare on soil and do not touch soil with your bare hands.