Parasitic worm that causes cancer-mimicking disease appears in U.S., those living near dogs be extra aware
A rare, potentially deadly parasitic disease that's endemic to Europe and Asia has been rising in Canada, underscoring the importance of strong border security.
Alveolar echinococcosis, a disease caused by the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, was likely brought over to North America by dogs from Europe, according to Gizmodo. Domestic dogs and wild canines such as coyotes are the preferred carriers of this dangerous parasite, but humans could also become infected through their interactions with their pets, so dog owners should be on alert. Fortunately, scientists say it is rare for humans to contract alveolar echinococcosis.
"These worms can infect several species of mammals, but their definitive hosts (hosts for their adult and sexually reproductive stage of life) are wild canines and domestic dogs," Gizmodo reported.
"People are usually infected through the ingestion of microscopic eggs from eating contaminated food or handling other infected animals, and we then become a dead end for the tapeworm."
It can take years for the disease to become symptomatic -- but when it does, it often mimics liver cancer. The potentially fatal parasite can be treated through surgery and/or a life-long course of anti-parasitic drugs. Before the 2010s, there were only two documented cases of human AE in North America, according to Gizmodo -- one in 1928 in Manitoba, Canada, and another in 1977 in Minnesota. However, between 2013 and 2020, scientists documented 17 cases of human alveolar echinococcosis in Alberta alone, according to the March issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
All of the patients were treated with anti-parasitic drugs, which are used when surgery alone can’t remove the tumor-like growths. One person died of surgical complications. Most of the patients owned dogs. While Alberta is currently the hotspot for this parasitic tapeworm, two human cases were recently reported in the United States.
Dr. Stan Houston, a physician and infectious diseases professor at the University of Alberta, told Gizmodo that human AE does not appear to be a major danger to Americans so far. He recommended washing your hands after interacting with your dog, especially if you live in an outdoorsy area where coyotes abound. Houston explained that "what we know so far suggests that the parasite has been remarkably successful, achieving considerably higher prevalence in Alberta coyotes than in its natural reservoir, the red fox in Europe."
He added: “It is unequivocally new as a human disease in the Western Hemisphere. The explanation very clearly seems to be the introduction of the more virulent European strain of the parasite into our wildlife ecology.”
Fortunately for Americans, Canada is keeping its borders closed to the United States until 75 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Currently, less than 20 percent of Canadians have received both injections, so the country has a long way to go to meet its vaccination target.
Canada closed its border to most travel in March 2020, when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. This was a wise decision the country made to protect its citizens.
It would be nice if American lawmakers cared as much about their citizens as the Canadians do.
Unlike Canada's leaders, many Democrats cheerfully encourage caravans of unvaccinated, maskless illegal aliens to flood the southern border every day.
Now, in addition to worrying about migrants spreading the coronavirus, there's a cancer-mimicking parasitic disease to be on the lookout for. Under the disastrous Biden administration, it seems that every month goes from bad to worse.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.