Parasites in the food chain

Infection from parasites can be avoided if proper hygiene, cooking and safety precautions are used.

Parasites are not a topic that should or needs to be discussed around the dinner table. But it really is something people should be aware of. Infected drinking water is one form of infection to humans in the United Staes. It is important to know how to prevent becoming infected with a parasite.

A parasite is an organism that requires a living host. This host can be human or an animal. In general, parasites are transferred through unclean water, food handlers that have not washed their hands and under cooked food that is infected. Parasites are contracted by ingesting food or water that has been in contact with the feces of an infected animal or human.

How would you know if you had a parasite? There are many symptoms that can emerge. General discomfort or nausea, or more severe illness would be pain that can put you in bed for a long time. If left untreated for a long time a parasite can take a life. Symptoms can appear anywhere from a couple days to weeks after they have been ingested in a living host.

Some basic ways to keep your food or water safe is to wash your hands after using a restroom, changing a diaper or cleaning up after animals. Cooking foods, particularly wild game to correct temperatures, making sure you are drinking from a safe water source. If you are camping or hiking boil water that you plan to use as drinking water. If you are swimming be careful not to swallow lake water that may be contaminated or if you know you are a carrier do not swim in public pools. Michigan State University recommends washing all fruits and vegetables before eating or even slicing them if they will be eaten raw.

Foodborne illness, including parasites, can be prevented when using good food safety practices all the time not just when you feel it is appropriate. 

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