Paragonimiasis (Lung Fluke)

Paragonimiasis is an infection caused by a parasite called paragonimus westermani which is found in raw seafood and commonly manifests as a respiratory infection with cough, fever, bloody sputum and chest discomfort. However it can spread to the skin, intestine, lymph nodes and even the central nervous system.

Where does it occur?

The disease is prevalent in West Africa, Southeast Asia, Indian subcontinent, and South America.

How is it transmitted?

One contracts infection by the ingestion of pickled or raw fresh crayfish and crabs.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is not contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is low unless sampling local uncooked or pickled seafood.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Initial symptoms develop weeks to months after ingestion.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Many individuals have no symptoms. When they do occur one can have cough, brown to reddish phlegm and chest pain. As the parasite spreads through the blood stream to the stomach and intestines one can have stomach pain. Infection of the skin presents as painful nodules of the groin and abdomen which may migrate over time.

Infection of the brain can lead to headaches, nausea and seizures.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

There is an increased eosinophil count in the blood and one can find the parasite’s eggs in sputum or feces. Blood antibody tests are also available.

Is there any treatment?

Praziquantel is an effective antibiotic.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid eating pickled, semi-cooked or raw crayfish and crabs.

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