Today, the United States is seeing an increase in tapeworm infections. Many experts are attributing this to increase in immigrants from countries where tapeworm infections are endemic.
However, studies have shown that tapeworm infections are present in southern part of United States where poverty is high and sanitation is not optimum. This region is primarily along the Mexican border.
So, what do tapeworms in humans look like? Will you be able to identify tapeworm if you see them? There are many different types of tapeworms and some of the types are more commonly found in beef, pork and fish. However, the CDC believes that the most rampant infection is caused by dwarf tapeworm, which is named after its size. It grows to a size of 1 to 2 inches. This is also the most common tapeworm that infects humans in the United States, especially children.
A tapeworm is flat like a ribbon and its body is divided into segments, giving it a measuring tape appearance. An adult tapeworm has hooks, which it uses to attach itself to the lining of the intestine. Each segment of the tapeworm has its own digestive and reproductive system. As the food in your body is being digested, the segments absorb the nutrients through the skin or the tapeworm. As the segment matures or turns older, it is gradually pushed towards the tail of the tapeworm and it loses its digestive system. What remains is only the reproductive system, which makes the segment into a sack full of eggs. This segment then detaches itself from the body of the tapeworm and is expelled out of the body along with the feces, where it dries and ruptures releasing the eggs to the outside world waiting for an intermediary host to ingest the eggs.
Some adult tapeworms can grow to an astonishing length of 50 feet and can live for up to 20 years. Since people only see the segments in their stools, they think that a tapeworm is small in size. Usually a tapeworm in the human body grows to a length of 6 inches or more.
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