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Parasitic Zoonotic Infections

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  • 0:01 Lice and Parasites
  • 1:12 Hookworms
  • 3:07 Other Zoonotic Parasites
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will go over some external and internal parasite that can be transmitted between animals and humans, including hookworm, tapeworm, and more.

Lice and Parasites

Have you ever had head lice? Maybe you did when you were really young and just don't remember anymore. Lice are parasites. Parasites are organisms who derive a benefit from a host but give nothing beneficial back in return. Specifically, lice are external parasites, parasites living on a body, as opposed to internal parasites, parasites living in a body.

If you ever work in a veterinary clinic, you'll probably come across a scenario where a parent will come in and claim their pet gave their child a case of head lice. You can always tell them that's not possible because lice are not zoonotic parasites. Meaning, if a person gets a persistent case of head lice, they got it from another person, not from an animal.

However, there are plenty of parasitic zoonotic diseases people can get from zoonotic (that is to say, animal to human) parasites. This lesson will go over some of them and another lesson will cover two other important ones called toxocariasis and toxoplasmosis.

Hookworms

As I write this, I'm beginning to go crazy because where I am now, the sun hasn't shone for two weeks straight. And I wish I was exaggerating. So, let's do something together for peace of mind. Let's pretend we're on some exotic beach. The sun is shining; the sky is blue; the water is clear. Your feet press against the warm soft sand as you stroll along the shore with a cool drink in hand.

What you may not know is that as you enjoy your amazing stroll, you could be getting infected with a parasitic worm. A worm whose larvae, immature (or young) worms, love to burrow into exposed human skin. I know, I totally ruined our vacation now, didn't I? I'm sorry.

This worm is known as hookworm, a parasite that causes a condition known as cutaneous larva migrans, where 'cutaneous' implies skin, 'larva' implies little young worms, and 'migrans' implies the migration or wandering through something. So, it's the wandering of little worms in the skin: cutaneous larva migrans.

These parasitic hookworms actually live in the intestines of infected animals like cats and dogs. As the animals defecate, hookworm eggs contaminate the sand and soil. There, they hatch to become young worms called larvae, which then burrow into your skin when your skin touches them. People who experience cutaneous larva migrans have an itchy track-like rash caused by the movement of the worm in the skin. Sweet, huh?

Puppies and kittens are more likely to have hookworm infections than adult dogs who have been treated before. So, to prevent cutaneous larva migrans, make sure your pets are treated as necessary by the veterinarian, always wear shoes, and always pick up after your pets.

Other Zoonotic Parasites

There are a plenty of zoonotic parasites other than hookworm. Many of them are potentially transmitted from an animal to a human, although more commonly, they are caught elsewhere.

Two prime examples of this are the parasites Giardia and Cryptosporidium. These parasites are typically joyfully gained by people through drinking contaminated (that is to say, feces-laden) water and cause some nasty diarrhea, among other things. Usually, the specific form of these parasites that infects humans is not the same one that infects animals. Nevertheless, if an animal you are taking care of seems sick (that is to say, if it has diarrhea), make sure to get it treated to avoid even a small potential for infection. Who likes the runs anyways? Why risk it?

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