Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
Some infectious diseases are caused by biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and prions rather than by genetic, physical or chemical agents. Amoebiasis, sometimes spelt amebiasis, is one of those common diseases, caused by a parasite which infects the bowel casing a type of gastroenteritis infection.
This disease generally occurs in young to middle aged adults, but can affect anyone because people can be receptive to infection by ingesting contaminated food or water containing the Entamoeba histolytica microorganism, although Amoebiasis is mostly associated with people living in areas of poor sanitation and it is a common cause of diarrhea among people living or traveling to developing countries, specially those located in tropical or subtropical areas, but also coming from domestic suburbs with non hygienic conditions. Approximately 500 cases are reported each year in New York State and most of those cases occur among New York City residents.
As Amebiasis is an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite called Entamoeba histolytica, to trace the cause of the disease it is necessary to know what you ate and drank in the previous weeks, and/or where you traveled before you became ill. Entamoeba histolytica parasites are only found in humans.
After infection, it may take from a few days up to two to four weeks before becoming ill. Some people with amebiasis may carry the parasite for weeks to years, often without symptoms. Amoebiasis can progress to amoebic dysentery in the wide, lower part of the intestine and then spread to cause severe damage to the intestine. Although rarely, amoebiasis can cause abscesses in the liver, lungs, and brain or even elsewhere in the body.
Amoebiasis occurs when Entamoeba histolytica parasites are taken in by mouth, eaten or swallowed something infected with such parasite, however the most common way this happens is by person-to-person spread. People with amoebiasis have Entamoeba histolytica parasites in their feces, and their contaminated hands can spread the parasites to surfaces and objects which will be touched by other people. Under certain circumstances, this disease may also spread sexually by oral-anal contact.
In your household, the risk to spread amoebiasis can be reduced if people infected or suffering gastroenteritis do not prepare or handle food to be eaten by other people and that no one shares their towel or wash cloths. Food handlers, child care workers and health care workers with amoebiasis must not work until symptoms have stopped. Children must not attend child care centers, kindergartens or schools until symptoms have stopped.
People with amoebiasis may experience mild or severe symptoms or no symptoms at all, the common are stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, sometimes containing blood, loose stools, abdominal tenderness and occasional fever and weight loss. Your doctor may proceed to examination of the stools under a microscope to diagnose amebiasis and prescribe specific antibiotics such as metronidazole to treat effectively this disease.
Fecal material from infected people may contaminate water or food serving as a vehicle to infect others, so it is important that people observe preventive measures, infected or not, including careful handwashing thoroughly with soap and hot running water for at least ten seconds after going to the toilet. By frequently washing your hands you are eliminating the amoebiasis parasite that you have picked up from contaminated surfaces, from other people, or from animals and animal waste. Infected homosexuals should refrain from intimate contact and people traveling overseas, must take special care.
Bathrooms and toilets must be cleaned often to avoid the spread of disease, paying particular attention to surfaces such as handles, toilet seats, taps and diaper changing tables. Boil untreated water coming directly from lakes or rivers before drinking it since it may be contaminated with feces from people. Also contaminated food and drink are common sources of amoebiasis. Wash your hands before preparing food, before eating, after going to the toilet or changing diapers, after smoking or after using a tissue or handkerchief.
People must carefully select and prepare any food and drink as an effective preventive measure against amoebiasis. Uncooked foods must be avoided, particularly vegetables and fruit, which cannot be peeled before eating. Unpacked drinks and ice should also be avoided. Food handlers should always use disposable paper towels or an air dryer to dry their hands. Generally, cloth towels are not recommended as they can spread germs from one person to another.
Finally, remember that safe food storage and handling reduce also the risk of amoebiasis infections by following simple guidelines:
* Thoroughly cook all raw foods.
* Thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits before eating.
* Reheat food until the internal temperature of the food reaches at least 167º Fahrenheit.
And do not forget that part of the microwave cooking process, includes careful instructions of the standing times to ensure the food is completely cooked before it is served.
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