Echinococcus is a cestode, or tapeworm, that ranges in length from 2-7mm in length.
This is transmitted to humans when echinococcus eggs are ingested. These eggs are found in the feces of the definitive host, dogs. Thus, proper hygeine helps prevent spread of echinococcus granulosus.
Once infected, this infection causes slow-growing cysts to grow in the liver (rarely, the lungs, spleen and heart). These are called hydatid cysts and are filled with clear fluid containing antigens. Depending on their size, these cysts can be asymptomatic or present as an uncomfortable mass.
Often, due to cyst growth, the body can react with fibrosis and necrosis in the infected tissue.
Caregivers should be cautioned when examining and treating this infection. If cysts rupture while in the body, from surgical extraction of bodily trauma, the patient will go into anaphylactic shock and develop high fever, pruritis, edema, and breathing difficulties.
Albendazole is the most common pharmacologic treatment used against echinococcus infection. It is typically combined with open surgical removal of the cysts.
If the cysts are in an accessible location, open surgical removal of cysts is used to treat patients infected with echinococcus.
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