Guinea Worm or Gag?

We’ve all seen them – pictures and videos showing large worms being extracted from human heads, toes, and limbs. We’ve all heard the stories too, right? A woman walks into a clinic complaining of a headache and just like that, the doctor says she has a worm in her brain that should be extracted right away. The woman doesn’t flinch while a doctor pulls a thick, white worm out of a hole in the woman’s head with nothing more than a pair of tongs. Well, we hate to break the news to you, but chances are these images, videos and stories are nothing more than gags and hoaxes.

While it is true that human parasites do exist, chances are, a six-twelve inch worm will not come wriggling out of anyone’s head or nose, especially if they live in a developed country. Continue reading to find out how to protect yourself against worm gags and hoaxes and also read on to find out all about the most common types of human worms and the not so common types, mainly the Guinea worm. The Guinea worm is quite scary, but if you’re reading this, you have a better chance of winning $380 million in the Texas lottery, than you do of being infected with this type of parasitic worm.

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Worm Images and Video: Real or Hoax?

Websites will do anything to get traffic, even if it means scaring the pants off of unsuspecting surfers. True, humans can get worms, but extreme cases involving worms wriggling around eyeballs, exploding from a person’s head or escaping from the pores of an old woman are rare in developed countries. And, sensational cases are usually created by piecing together several unrelated medical cases and conditions to create a Weekly World News worthy story, in order to scare individuals into getting everything from unnecessary medical screenings to buying special lotions and medicines. So is there a way to tell fact from fiction when it comes to Internet images of worms in humans? Absolutely!

The vast majority of credible medical studies and stories will include an extensive list of verifiable sources. If the study or story includes images, each image will contain a verifiable credit as well. If you cannot verify a credit or a source, chances are the image is a hoax or nothing more than an urban legend. In some cases, the credit or source will take you to a real website that looks credible. Don’t stop there. Do some digging. Does the website have contact information? Do you get an answer when you call or a response back when you send an email? Can you find the company name online?

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If the credits and sources link to a credible source like the University of Chicago Hospital, there will be solid evidence of the study, verifiable images, and contact information. To verify the study, story and/or the images, simply call or email the contact.

In addition to including verifiable sources, real images and cases do not typically resort to cartoon images and “photoshopped” images to add credibility. Fortunately, you can spot these types of images fairly easy. Click here to take a look at a few random “photoshopped” images. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about worms in humans.

The Truth About Worms in Humans

At any given time, the human body may be infected with dozens of different types of parasites, such as worms. Some parasites are microscopic while other worms in humans are quite visible to the naked eye. Certain types of parasites are found more often in animals, for example, the bloodworm typically infects horses. Other types of parasites may affect humans more often. In all, there are more than 3,200 types of parasites in existence today and they are divided into the following categories: Cestoda, Nematoda, Protozoa, and Trematoda.

Just a few of the different types of parasites that may infect humans include: tapeworms, (Cestodes); hookworms, pinworms, and roundworms (Nematodes); giardia (Protozoa); and flat worms, (Trematoda).

The most common type of worm in humans is the roundworm. It is estimated that one in every four humans is infected with roundworms. It is important to keep in mind, however, that parasites rarely cause any serious (or fatal) complications in Europe and North America. No matter what type of worm the human body may be infected with, whether it’s a bloodworm that somehow made its way into the human digestive system (extremely rare) or a roundworm, the vast majority of parasites cause some of the same unpleasant symptoms. Symptoms of parasites or worms in humans may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Rashes
  • Insomnia
  • Eye pain
  • Protein deficiency
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Mental dullness
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Nervousness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Stomach bloating
  • Bloody stools
  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms are also common symptoms for many other diseases and conditions, so its best to consult a physician for an accurate diagnosis. A physician will test for parasites by taking a feces sample and examining it for parasites and/or eggs. Fortunately, the vast majority of parasites can be eliminated by using some of the same methods or by ingesting some of the same types of medications or antibiotics.

Parasites can be eliminated from the body through the use of colon cleansers and/or colonics, several rounds of antibiotics or medications as prescribed by a physician, and/or by utilizing a number of different herbal or natural remedies. It’s best to consult an herbalist for the very best herbal remedies to get rid of worms in humans. That said, there are several popular (and effective) remedies consisting of the following combinations of herbs and ingredients:

  • Black walnut leaves, wormwood, quassia, cloves, male fern
  • Capsicum, wormwood, sage
  • Cramp bark, pumpkin seed, capsicum, thyme, garlic
  • Black walnut, pine needles, sassafras

In general, herbal remedies should be taken orally for a minimum of two weeks.

Some individuals may complain of re-infection. It is very important to change your eating habits immediately if you suspect a parasite or worm infection. It’s best not to go back to your regular eating habits in order to prevent re-infection. Certain foods, spices, and beverages might help to ward off parasite infections or to keep you from becoming infected through food or water sources. These include:

  • Cranberry juice
  • High-fiber foods
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Garlic
  • Pomegranates
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Figs
  • Bottled or distilled water
  • Thoroughly cooked meats and seafood
  • Organic fruits and vegetables, washed thoroughly

Avoid the following foods and activities if at all possible:

  • Undercooked meats
  • Chestnuts
  • Sugar
  • Watercress
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Swimming in lakes, rivers, an streams
  • Using the microwave to cook meats

And finally, never underestimate the power of clean hands! You should always wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom whether it is in your home or in a public place. In addition, wash kitchen utensils and countertops with hot soapy water after each use and wear gloves when changing your cats litter box or cleaning up after your pets.

All About the Guinea Worm

Also called, dracunculiasis (pronounced: dra-KUNK-you-LIE-uh-sis), Guinea worm is a parasitic worm infection that occurs mainly in Africa. In fact, more than half of all cases of Guinea worm disease are reported from the southern Sudan region. Each year, 1,000 cases of Guinea worm disease are also reported in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, and Uganda. Countries where less than 1,000 cases of the disease are reported include: Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Mauritania, and Senegal.

Guinea worm is more common in poor rural African villages that are not frequented by tourists. While the infection occurs mostly in Africa, the disease can also be found in Yemen, and some of the most remote villages in the Rajastan desert of India.

What Causes Guinea Worm?

Guinea worm is caused by a threadlike parasitic worm that grows and matures inside the human body. The worm is called Dracunculus medinensis. Dracunculus medinensis is as thin as a paper clip and it can grow up to a staggering three feet long. Once the larvae mature inside the human body, the Guinea worm exits the body through a painful blister in the skin. This can cause long-term suffering and oftentimes, crippling aftereffects.

How is Guinea worm contracted?

People may become infected with Guinea worm after drinking standing water that contains a tiny water flea. The flea might be infected with the tiny larvae of the Guinea worm. The tiny larvae pierce the intestinal, mature into adulthood, then mate during the course of a year. Once the males die off, the female makes her way through the body where she will grow up to as much as three feet. The female will eventually end up near the surface of the skin, typically in the lower limbs.

Symptoms of Guinea worm

Guinea worms cause intense swelling and painful, burning blisters. In most cases, the infected will seek out water to soothe the pain. In poor rural African villages, “water” usually means nearby ponds and wells. Once the sufferer enters the water, the blisters will burst and the worm will emerge releasing millions of new larvae into the water. Once the larvae have been released into the water, they are then swallowed by tiny water fleas and the vicious cycle starts all over again.

Other symptoms of Guinea worm include: fever and infection. Most symptoms of Guinea worm do not develop until a year after a person has ingested contaminated water.

Guinea worm diagnosis and treatment

Guinea worm can be detected by sight. The adult worm can be seen protruding from a skin sore. While there is no cure for Guinea worm or medications to prevent infection, there are several methods to remove the worms. The Guinea worm can be removed a little at a time by winding it around a small stick and pulling it out. In some cases, the process will take only a few days, in others it might take a few weeks or even a few months. In some cases, Guinea worm can be surgically removed before the actual wound begins to swell. Antibiotics and antihistamines may be used to reduce swelling and make removal of the worm easier.

After a Guinea worm is removed, many people are left with permanent scarring and/or permanent crippling. Unfortunately, most people in infested villages will contract Guinea worm disease year after year.

How to prevent Guinea worm

Guinea worm infection can be avoided by using only filtered water or water that has been obtained from a safe source. Even water from ponds and wells can be boiled and filtered through cloth to kill the Guinea worm larvae. Water can also be treated with a larvae-killing chemical. In addition, people with open Guinea worm wounds should stay away from ponds or wells that are used for drinking water.

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