A pair of hunters are currently recovering after being sick with a rare parasitic tapeworm due to using dogs to butcher a moose.
According to Newsweek, the New Hampshire-based hunters were infected by a tapeworm after butchering a moose that they had hunted. Their pet dogs were present during the event. Elizabeth Talbot, an infectious disease physician at Dartmouth Hitchcock Health and the state’s deputy epidemiologist spoke about the incident. “It’s the first time it’s been identified in humans,” she stated.
It was also noted that the parasite that infected the hunters is identified as the species Echinococcus granulosus. It is also known as a hydatid worm, hyper tapeworm, or dog tapeworm. The CCD reports that the species spends its adult phase in the intestines of canines and other definitive hosts. They then lay eggs that are placed in feces. The eggs hatch into the larval cystic form once they are consumed by usually hoofed animals. At this point, the worm gets embedded in the organs of the intermediate host after traveling around the body in the bloodstream. The larval cysts are consumed by dogs when they eat the meat of the infected animal. This starts the entire cycle over again.
Dan Bergeron, the wildlife division chief at the state’s Fish and Game Department further spoke about the tapeworm incident. “Typically what happens is they are getting this because they may have had a dog that fed on the raw meat or raw organs of the animals, and then they pick it up through the feces of the dog.”
How Did the Humans Get Exposed to the Tapeworm?
Humans that are exposed to dog feces, either by licking or touching a dog that licked itself, may get infected. This is due to eggs traveling into the body. However, humans cannot be infected by consuming moose meat directly. Exposure comes from interaction with dogs and then the spread of the tapeworm eggs from the feces.
This type of infection may lead to larval cysts forming in organs and cause hydatid disease. This means that the cysts can press on the surrounding tissue as they grow larger over time. Abnormal organ function and neurologic effects may result if the cyst is embedded in the brain or nervous system. However, this depends on where the cysts are located.
Talbot further reported that there has been an outbreak of the tapeworms in moose populations in northern New Hampshire over the past few years. The state’s Health and Human Services Department did release multiple warnings to hunters about the parasite. The officials also offered advice on how to avoid infection. This includes properly washing hands and making sure the dogs are on deworming medication. Dogs are to also not consume raw meat.