• Question: how do parasites spread?

    Asked by hfb7 to Adam, Geoff, Rob, Sheila, Suzie on 12 Mar 2011 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Robert Simpson

      Robert Simpson answered on 11 Mar 2011:

      I’m afraid I don’t know much about parasites, but I do know a great parasite joke:

      A parasite walks into a bar. The bartender says “we don’t serve your kind here.”

      The parasite says “Hmph. You’re not a very good host!”

      (Please don’t evict me just because of that joke…)

    • Photo: Suzie Sheehy

      Suzie Sheehy answered on 11 Mar 2011:

      I have to say, this isn’t my area at all – so really, I don’t know!

      But… I once saw a lecture about tapeworms which almost made me sick… the scientist giving the talk went into detail about his job visiting countries in Africa and literally sifting through people’s poo to find evidence of them having a tapeworm inside them! Thankfully, that’s not something I ever have to do as a physicist!!

      I remember that in that case you had to eat something that has the parasite in it, like raw meat…

    • Photo: Adam Tuff

      Adam Tuff answered on 12 Mar 2011:

      Parasites spread most rapidly when they have a big food source – and more often than not that food source is animals, or even humans! Parasites spread further when an animal eats meat containing parasites, or comes into contact with other animals who have the parasite. Some parasites have a very short life cycle, and can spread very rapidly.

    • Photo: Geoff McBride

      Geoff McBride answered on 12 Mar 2011:

      It’s not my subject but any animal moves about using legs, fins, wings. With parasites some use the host to travel around on like a flea on a dog.

    • Photo: Sheila Kanani

      Sheila Kanani answered on 12 Mar 2011:

      I had to google this! But your question was ace as it got me learning too 🙂

      Human parasites are organisms that live inside us, we are their hosts! Gross. Parasites are unable to produce food for themselves, so they depend on what we eat. Because they eat our food they can destroy our tissues and cells, and they produce toxic waste products that can make people very ill.

      Our way of life can contribute to the spread of parasites. Kids can contract parasites from their nurseries and schools. Children and adults with dogs and cats at home are at risk for getting parasites. Also, those people that eat at restaurants are at a higher risk because food handlers have been known to spread parasites (if they don’t wash their hands!!!).

      Human parasites are just about everywhere in our environment, so it is easy to become infected. The following is just some of the ways people can acquire parasites:

      • insect bites
      • animal poo
      • walking barefoot
      • handling raw meat and fish
      • eating raw or undercooked pork, fish or chicken
      • handling soiled litter pans (cats)
      • eating contaminated raw fruits and vegetables
      • eating meals prepared by infected food handlers
      • drinking contaminated water
      • having contact with infected persons (including sexual contact, kissing, and shaking hands)
      • inhaling contaminated dust (parasitic eggs or cysts)

      BUT as long as you wash your hands properly and dispose of dirty tissues etc then you should be fine, so don’t panic!