Amebiasis is an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite called Entamoeba histolytica. The parasite produces cysts, which are passed from the body in the stool.
Amebiasis can affect anyone, however, the disease mostly occurs in young to middle-aged adults. People who travel to areas of the world which do not have a sanitary water supply, are at greater risk for getting amebiasis. Men who have sex with men can become infected and can get sick from the infection, but they often do not have symptoms.
Symptoms appear 2-4 weeks after infection; however, sometimes, it may take a few days, several months or even years before becoming ill. Nine in ten people who carry E. histolytica in their feces have no symptoms, but can still pass the disease on to others. The symptoms are often mild and can include loose stools, stomach pain, and stomach cramping.
A severe form of amebiasis causes stomach pain, bloody stools, and fever. Liver abscesses and brain or lung infections occur infrequently.
Treatment & Prevention
Food handlers, childcare workers, and healthcare workers with amebiasis must not work until symptoms have stopped. Children must not attend childcare centers or school until symptoms have stopped.
However, the risk of spreading infection is low if the infected person is treated with antibiotics and practices good personal hygiene.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot running water for at least ten seconds:
- before preparing food
- before eating
- after using the toilet or changing diaper
- after smoking
Food handlers should:
- thoroughly wash hands before touching food
- use a paper towel or an air dryer to dry hands. (Cloth towels are not recommended as they get dirty quickly and can spread germs from one person to another).
- thoroughly wash and cook raw vegetables
- reheat food to an internal temperature of at least 170 ° F
Recent Texas Trends
Amebiasis cases in Texas are most often found in persons who have traveled internationally to countries that have poor sanitary conditions. Over the last five years, 2015-2019, the average number of cases of amebiasis reported in Texas has been 158 cases per year (ranging from 123 to 206).