Definition of Helminth
Helminth: A worm classified as a parasite. (A parasite is a disease-causing organism that lives on or in a human or another animal and derives its nourishment from its host.) Lice are examples of parasites that live on humans; bacteria and viruses are examples of parasites that live either on humans or in humans; helminths are examples of parasites that live in humans.
Helminth eggs contaminate food, water, air, feces, pets and wild animals, and objects such as toilet seats and door handles. The eggs enter the body of a human through the mouth, the nose and the anus. Once inside the body, helminth eggs usually lodge in the intestine, hatch, grow and multiply. They can sometimes infest other body sites.
Diagnosis of helminth diseases in humans usually requires a medical history and physical examination, a laboratory analysis of stools, and sometimes other tests.
Treatment in most cases involves the use of highly effective anti-worm drugs known as vermifuges that kill the worms.
Prevention of helminth diseases usually requires frequent washing of hands, frequent cleaning of bathrooms and kitchens, and thorough cooking of the foods they infest -- mainly beef, pork, sausage and bear meat. Water supplies should be chlorinated, if possible.
Common helminths and the problems they cause include the following:
The word "helminth" is derived from the Greek "helmins" (worm). Helminthology is the study of parasitic worms.
Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012
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