Most cases of foodborne trematode infections are associated with morbidity and mortality. Early infections are usually asymptomatic and unnoticeable, but chronic worm infestations are associated with high mortality and morbidity. Infections may be either acute or chronic, depending on where the worm lives in the body. In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish between these two types of diseases.
Although foodborne trematode infections are rare, they are important because they are a major public health concern. These parasitic worms are very common in the environment, and they often occur in raw or undercooked seafood. Many occurrences are also linked to water contamination. Some contaminated seafood products can harbor the worms, making them a common source of invasive disease. Fortunately, foodborne trematode infection symptoms can often be easily diagnosed.
Upon release from the ocean or sea, these parasitic worms attach to and penetrate the body of a second intermediate host and encyst. In humans, they can be transmitted through ingestion of metacercariae, which are the eggs and larvae of foodborne trematode infections. The parasites are found in all types of aquatic plants and animals, and they can be transferred from one animal to another through a direct or indirect route. In the United States, these worms are commonly found in raw or undercooked freshwater fish and vegetables.
There are a wide range of foodborne trematode species. Some of these parasites are associated with the development of human or animal disease and cause massive economic losses in livestock. There are no known vaccines for the occurrence of foodborne trematode infections, but prevention is the key to preventing them from becoming a public health problem. And with proper education and proper treatment, people can avoid a lifetime of suffering.