Fascioliasis

Fascioliasis is an infection caused by two parasites; Fasciola hepatica and Fasciola gigantica. It is an infection of the liver and bile ducts resulting in abdominal pain and jaundice. It is usually only found in areas of the world where sheep are raised in large numbers - this is the natural host of this worm.

Where does it occur?

Majority of cases are from Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Egypt, Iran, Russian Federation and Vietnam.

How is it transmitted?

The infection is transmitted by eating uncooked water plants like watercress.

The hosts for the parasite are sheep and snails. Sheep deposit feces with eggs of the parasite in water. The eggs hatch in water and the larvae infect snails. Snails deposit larvae in grass and other water plants that are eaten by sheep completing the cycle.

Water plants like watercress that are contaminated with the parasite are eaten by humans; thus contracting the infection.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is not contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

It is not well known – likely weeks.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Initial symptoms are fever and abdominal pain. Worms that are up to 1-1.5 inches can cause obstruction of bile ducts resulting in jaundice and colicky pain.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Eggs of the parasite are found in feces or bile. Blood antibody tests are also available.

Is there any treatment?

Medications like triclabendazide are the treatment of choice.

What preventive measures can be taken?

No specific precautions – but washing all water plants like watercress prior to eating is highly recommended.

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