Echinococcus multilocularis (E. multilocularis) is a tapeworm
that is spread by infected coyotes, foxes, and sometimes dogs and cats. People get this tapeworm by accidentally eating its eggs from unclean (contaminated) food, water, or hand to mouth contact. This can cause a disease called alveolar echinococcosis (AE).
The risk of people getting AE in Alberta is very low. Since 2013, there have been only a small number of reported cases in the province.
In Alberta, coyotes and foxes can have this tapeworm. They often live close to houses and parks, which can put people and pets at higher risk of getting this tapeworm. But even in places in North America where the tapeworm is common in animals, it’s rare that people get it.
The tapeworm’s eggs are spread in the feces of infected coyotes, foxes, and sometimes dogs and cats. The eggs can live in the feces for a long time. When rodents (mice and voles) eat the eggs, the tapeworm infects the rodent.
When coyotes, foxes, dogs, or cats eat an infected rodent, the larvae grow into the adult tapeworms in the intestine. The adult tapeworms make new eggs that are shed in the animal’s feces, starting the cycle all over again. The adult tapeworms do not cause any symptoms or health problems in the coyote, fox, dog, or cat.
The tapeworm eggs are tiny and you can’t see them. The most common ways of getting AE are:
When a person eats the eggs, they may get cyst-like lesions in their liver. The lesions grow very slowly and may not cause any symptoms for years. Symptoms include:
AE often causes death if it’s not treated. The treatment is medicine to fight the parasites and surgery to remove the lesions.
The best ways to prevent AE are to:
For more information on Echinococcus multilocularis, see the following links:
Current as of: October 23, 2017
Author: Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Alberta Health
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