Most people probably haven’t heard of Ancylostomiasis. This condition affects the intestines of humans who have been exposed to something called hookworms. The condition often goes by several other colloquial names, such as tunnel disease and miner’s anaemia. Some of these names indicate professions where the workers could potentially be at greater risk of developing Ancylostomiasis.
Incredibly, around 20% of the world’s entire population is affected by this condition. However, many areas of the world only ever see occasional instances of this condition. It is very common in tropical parts of the world, and subtropical parts.
What are hookworms?
A hookworm is a parasite, and in this case, it uses a human host to feed on. They will make their way into the body and move through the bloodstream to reach the small intestine. The hookworms literally hook themselves onto the walls of the intestines, feeding on the wall and causing blood loss as they do this.
Which symptoms should you look out for?
Hookworm infections that cause Ancylostomiasis can create specific symptoms that are easy to look for. One such symptom is blood in the stools, not to mention pain in the abdominal area.
It’s also possible to develop a cough, and to bring up blood in the process. Again, as the hook worms hook onto the intestine, and possibly the walls of the stomach if they have been ingested in food, blood loss can occur. This leads to another symptom, namely that of anaemia. Tiredness then presents itself as a symptom of anaemia and blood loss, so you can see all the symptoms are typically related to one another.
Feeling or being sick and developing diarrhoea can also occur, and since the appetite may wane, malnutrition is often seen as well. Once the condition is diagnosed and treated, it can take time for the parasite to disappear and for the person to feel well again.
How does infection occur?
In some countries in the affected regions, people either go to the toilet outdoors, or they use their faeces as a form of fertiliser. We would not do anything like this in the UK, but since it is not unusual in the tropical and subtropical areas, Ancylostomiasis is often caused by Ancylostoma duodenale, although some hookworm infections are caused by necator americanus, another form of hookworm.
You can be infected simply by walking on soil or sand where the larvae of these hookworms reside. If someone has been to the toilet there, and that person is already infected, the hookworms can pass out in the stools and live in the soil for a period, before attaching themselves to another unsuspecting host.
In other cases, people develop Ancylostomiasis from food and drink that has been contaminated. For instance, if an infected person goes to the toilet and doesn’t wash their hands afterwards, they may then handle food that becomes contaminated. This will then be passed onto the unsuspecting person who eats that food, and ingests the hookworm larvae or worms.
What should you do if you suspect you may have Ancylostomiasis?
This is a rare condition in the UK, but you may suspect you have it if you have been to a foreign country in affected parts of the world, or if you have encountered possible sources of infection as mentioned above.
See your GP as quickly as possible and tell them you think you may have Ancylostomiasis. Even though a hookworm infection of this sort is uncommon in the UK, you may have good evidence you have this condition. For example, you may have travelled to Africa or Southeast Asia recently, or another area that is commonly the source of such infections.
Doctors will usually prescribe an anti-parasitic drug to combat the infection and get rid of the hookworms. In some instances, an iron supplement may also be recommended to help get iron levels back up to normal if they have been depleted by blood loss and anaemia.
Can infection be prevented?
The best way to prevent any infection from hookworms is always to wear suitable footwear when walking in areas where contaminated soil might be present. This is a good idea if you’re walking anywhere, even on a beach. The eggs can pass into the body through small cuts on the feet, so if you can wear something to prevent this from happening, the odds of being infected are much lower. Indeed, the mature larvae can get through the skin itself, so there is a chance you would be infected through walking on contaminated soil or sand even if you have no cuts.
Practising good hygiene is also very important. Wash your hands frequently, since you never know when someone has touched a surface when they have infected faeces on their hands. Simple measures like these can make a big difference.
Do you think you’ve been infected through poor conditions?
Thankfully, this infection is rare in this country, but it is not impossible to get it. If you have been diagnosed with Ancylostomiasis and you believe you may have contracted it by way of poor conditions in a restaurant or anywhere else where someone else was at fault, there could be a chance to seek some compensation for your upsetting experience. While recovery is generally good once the proper treatment is given, the illness itself is nasty, and you may not feel back to your normal self for some time, especially if iron supplements are required to build up your levels.
Accident Advice Helpline handles claims relating to a wide range of accidents, but we also handle other personal injury claims relating to illness. If you want to know if you could claim for your illness, and you suspect there is evidence of negligence that could support your claim, it is wise to speak to someone on our team now. Call us today on 0800 689 0500, or use your mobile to call 0333 500 0993. You may be glad you did call us.