Specialists may not have the answer to this question but they can tell you what you should be afraid of and what to avoid. Apparently still water is the perfect place for parasites, and if you stop and think about it for a second, it’s pretty logical too. Lakes have still water, which means no major movement will disturb its fauna, which makes it a perfect breeding place for parasites and other creepy little creatures that crawl up your every orifice. But parasites aren’t only in still water. Here are some of the potential inhabitants of your body which you can contact trough water :
1. Parasitic Roundworm Ascarisis Lumbricoides
But you can call him Lumbri, since he will be spending his childhood in your intestines. Your new friend will cause you the disease known as Ascariasis. Research says that as many as one quarter of the world population are infected so better go check as quick as possible because Lumbri’s not alone and his friends aren’t nice.
After the parasitic eggs enter the digestive system either by swallowing infected water or food, they hatch and begin spreading. They start burrowing trough the gut wall and travel to the lungs using blood vessels. When they get to the lungs they are coughed and swallowed again, reentering the digestive system when they mature into adult worms. But that’s not the whole story; while they are taking a trip through your body they damage your organs producing peritonitis, the enlargement of your liver and spleen, verminous pneumonitis. The ones in the intestine may cause malabsorbtion and anorexia.
Doctors can’t really diagnose it unless one of the worms is passed in vomit or stool. So apart from being incredibly gross they are also dangerous. Lucky these cuties are mostly found in Africa or Latin America so unless you live there you can think of something else that cause your cramps this morning. If you those actually live in those regions stay out of canals, wash your hands 20 times a day and don’t eat anything that has fallen on the floor because if you do there will be worms coming out your nose!
2. Naegleria Fowelri
..or as some might call it The Brain Eating Amoeba. This one is exclusively found in lakes, ponds, hot springs, unclorhidrated swimming pools and even in the soil near lakes. In fact they can be found in any type of water except salty water.
So how do they get to the brain? Well Lumbri’s system was indeed a good one but The Brain Eating Amoeba has a different plan. This parasite enters your brain through the nose, specifically the olfactory mucosa (when it infiltrates it produces necrosis and bleeding in the olfactory bulbs). After that, it climbs along your nerve fibers until it gets into the brain where it starts chewing your brain cells.
The problem with this one is that, in most cases it kills you, and it has no time to lose, you’re dead in less than two weeks, and diagnosing it is tricky because the first symptoms, such as changes in smell, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, are usually mistaken with the flu or doctors connect them to other diseases.
After three to seven days since the first symptoms have appeared, things get out of control and now the patient has hallucinations, lack of attention, ataxia and even seizures. After seven more days the patient is most likely to decease. Once contacted there is no turning back, 98% of the cases having a tragic ending.
Unfortunately this one has no preference of region and it is possible that you find in any warm place that contains water and is not properly sanitized. I guess overly protective mothers aren’t so crazy after all by wanting to keep their child away from brain eating amoebas.
3. Dracunculus Medinensis known as The Guinea Worm
This parasite lives in stagnant water and you get to have him by drinking infected water. The name Dracunculiasis in Latin means “affliction with little dragons”. The illness was called The Guinea Worm disease because it was first seen by the Europeans on the Guinea coast of West Africa.
This worm is really thin and long, the adult female measuring 2-3 feet. The worm forms nodules under the mammal skin in the shape of painful blisters. The female forms a blister after one year since it was ingested. Usually the blisters are situated on the lower limbs. Obviously, it’s not deadly and all you have to do to get it out is to submerse the affected area in a bucket of water to reduce the eggs and therefor the infection, also relieving some of the burning sensation. After that you wrap the worm on a stick and pull. This is the painful part because pulling the worm causes a burning, extremely painful sensation and it might take a couple of hours or a couple of months to extract it from the body. Another way to get rid of it is to have surgery, and by all means that seems to me the best alternative. The wound may develop a second infection such as tetanus which might be life threatening though.
Schistosoma produces Schistosomiasis. Affected individuals release parasite eggs intro the environment. These eggs hatch when they contact fresh water and after that affecting the freshwater snails.
The parasite enters the snail’s foot where it form, close to that place the main sporocyst(a protective case or cyst in which sporozoites develop and from, until they are transferred to different hosts). Germ cells that form the first sporocyst divide, producing secondary sporocysts which migrate to the snail’s hepatopancreas. After dividing in the second sporocyst, the germ cells become larvae capable of affecting mammals.
The larvae enters trough the mammal skin remaining there for two days until it locates a post capillary venule. It travels to the lungs to suffer the changes it needs to migrate to the liver. The Schistosoma parasites (S. mansoni and S. japonicum) develop an oral sucker after arriving into the liver and begin feeding on red blood cells. The nearly mature worms pair and then relocate to the mesenteric or rectal veins. Adult worms are about 10 mm long. After reaching maturity schistosomas produce nearly 3.000 eggs a day that travel through the walls of the veins and the intestinal wall being eliminated in feces and continuing the cycle.
The disease has a low mortality rate, but it’s a chronic illness that can damage organs. It is most common in the regions where, of course, the water contains many freshwater snails like South America, Asia and Africa.
At first, there are no signs of infection, but after a few days the patient may develop a rash or itchy skin. After one or two months of infection, symptoms may develop, including fever, chills, cough, and muscle aches. Without treatment it can persist for years and the signs of chronic Schistosomiasis include abdominal pain, enlarged liver, blood in the stool or blood in the urine, and problems passing urine. Chronic infection can also lead to increased risk of bladder cancer.
Well, who thought snails could be dangerous being so slow and all…
These are some of the parasites that can be found in water, there are many more but I tried to point out the ones that were the most disgusting. Parasites can be contacted either directly, like the first three I presented;
either by having an intermediary agent such as the snail in the 4th example, or the pig, an intermediary agent for Thenia.
It is very important that people understand the risks of contacting a parasite and learning where they are and how to recognize the symptoms may help them avoid particular places or seek medical care when they recognize the symptoms