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- Centers for Disease Control: Factsheet: pinworm; 2010, as updated
- MedlinePlus: Pinworms; 2010, as updated
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Uninvited guests, pinworms infest people globally, without regard to socioeconomic status, class or age. They are very small parasites that live in the human digestive tract, although a person will not necessarily see them until the infestation is large.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Historical Records of the Pinworm
Although a particular date and place of origin cannot be precisely determined, pinworms have been around a very long time. According to D. Scott Smith at Stanford University, fossilized remnants of the worms were found at Danger Cave, Utah, dating to 7800 B.C. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek founder of modern medicine, wrote about pinworms. Evidence of human infestation dates to around 30 B.C. in Roman-occupied Europe.
Geographical Spread of Pinworms
Pinworms, also known as enterobious vermicularis, oxyuriasis, seatworms or threadworms, appear to have crossed over the Beringa, an ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska, reaching the Americas. A different variety, enterobious gregorii, infested Europe, Asia and parts of Africa. Cockroaches appear to catch pinworms from humans and help spread them by carrying pinworm eggs.
Transmission of Pinworms Between Humans
The Centers for Disease Control reports that once pinworms are established and grow in the human lower intestines, female pinworms come out at night while the person is sleeping and lay eggs outside the rectum 1. One sign of pinworm presence is persistent itching around the rectal area. The eggs spread to other humans when someone has fecal to oral ingestion of eggs, either by touching the area and then ingesting something by hand, or from eggs in clothing, bedsheets or other areas the person might have contacted. Pinworm eggs can live outside the body for as long as two weeks, and airborne infection can occur.
How Pinworms Die
Anyone can have pinworms, but young schoolchildren are at greater risk simply because they have contact with each other often, in the same locations in school. Reinfection happens very easily. Pinworms, white and only about 1/3 inch long, might be noticed in the stool or other bodily fluids in genitourinary areas. After appropriate medication, usually for the entire household, pinworm infestation easily ends. Pinworms are not carried by common household pets.
- CaducÃ©e: deux serpents enroulÃ©s autour d'un baton ailÃ©. image by Bruno Bernier from Fotolia.com