How Can I Have a Parasite if I’ve Never Been Out of the United States?
Finding out that you are infected with a parasite can come as a shock. Especially when you’ve never traveled outside of the U.S, let alone the state you live in. Nonetheless, millions of people across the United States are infected with parasites every year, many of which don’t even know it.
Increasing Parasite Concerns in the U.S.
While most people are under the impression that parasites are something that only people who visit other countries have to worry about, nothing could be further from the truth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are five parasitic diseases that are causing increasing concerns for the U.S. Here’s what you need to know about them:
- Chagas disease: Exposure to the parasite that causes Chagas disease can eventually lead to heart failure and death. While Chagas is more common in Latin American immigrants, it is estimated that over 300,000 people in the U.S. are infected with this parasite. In addition, over 300 babies born in the U.S. are found to be infected with the Chagas parasite every year.
- Cysticercosis: The cysticercosis parasite can lead to the development of neurocysticercosis— the leading infectious cause of seizures in certain areas of the United States. Approximately 2,000 people are diagnosed with neurocysticercosis each year.
- Toxocariasis: The toxocarasis parasite is a common infection among dogs and cats. It is estimated that at least 14% of the U.S. population has been exposed to the Toxocara parasite. According to the CDC, at least 70 people every year go blind as a result of contracting toxocarasis. Most of these cases are children.
- Toxoplasmosis: The majority of foodborne illnesses and deaths reported to the CDC each year are the result of toxoplasmosis. Over 60 million people in the U.S. have this chronic infection. The parasite has been linked to birth defects in the babies of pregnant woman. There is also a higher risk of death in people who become infected with this parasite who already have compromised immune systems.
- Trichomoniasis: The trichomoniasis parasite is one of the leading causes of infertility and preterm labor in pregnant women. It is also associated with low birth weight in newborn infants. The CDC estimates that 8 million people in the U.S. become infected with trichomoniasis every year.
The reason these particular parasites have become such a concern for the CDC is because very little is being done among our healthcare communities to keep track of, prevent, and treat these parasitic diseases. As a result, people are walking around with these parasites without knowing it. Without diagnosis or treatment, they can lead to serious health issues and even death.
Parasite Risk Factors
While there are certain groups of people who are at higher risk of contracting a parasite, such as immigrants and people who live in disadvantaged communities, anyone can become infected with a parasite, no matter their socioeconomic status, race, or gender.
Your general health can also play a role in your risk of contracting a parasite. Whereas a healthy body and immune system can usually destroy a parasite before it becomes a problem, there are a variety of health issues that can compromise your body’s natural defenses and leave you susceptible to developing a parasitic infection. Problems such as:
- Impaired adrenals (adrenal fatigue)
- Decreased immune system
- Leaky gut
Early Warning Signs of a Parasite Infection
One of the earliest yet most commonly misdiagnosed symptoms of a parasitic infection is fatigue or a general lack of energy. While many people may contribute this symptom to their busy and stressful lifestyles, when your feelings of tiredness don’t go away, it can be a sign that something else is going on inside your body. Other early symptoms of a hidden parasite infection include:
- Itchy, dry skin and rashes
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Weight loss
- Generalized aches and pains throughout the body
How to Know if You’re Infected with a Parasite
The only way you can know for sure if have or don’t have a parasite is to get tested. Because I’m aware of just how often these problems go undiagnosed and untreated, I offer parasitic testing to my clients from the very start.
While the thought of having a parasite can be disturbing, you’re better off knowing and getting treated than continuing to walk around clueless. So don’t go another day wondering. Get in touch with me so that I can help you identify any potential hidden source behind your symptoms and help reverse the effects they’re having on your life.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on August 25, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/resources/pdf/npi_factsheet.pdf