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HomeLifestyleCan humans get Heartworm disease?

Can humans get Heartworm disease?

01/6​Understanding Heartworm disease’s transmission from dogs to humans

Heartworm disease poses a severe threat to our animal companions, especially dogs, but is it also capable of affecting people? Knowing the mechanics of heartworm transmission is essential for anyone who cares about their own health as well as pet owners. Here are all the details of heartworm disease, including how it spreads, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, in order to highlight any possible dangers it may pose to people.

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02/6Understanding Heartworm transmission

Heartworms, scientifically known as Dirofilaria immitis, primarily infect dogs and are transmitted through mosquito bites. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the life cycle of heartworms involves the release of microfilariae into the bloodstream of infected dogs, which then mature into infective larvae inside mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites another dog, it spreads the infective larvae, initiating the life cycle. Importantly, heartworm disease is not contagious between dogs but is solely spread through mosquito vectors.

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03/6​Heartworms in dogs vs humans

While heartworms pose a significant threat to dogs, their impact on human health is relatively rare. Dirofilaria immitis larvae enter the bloodstream of both dogs and humans through mosquito bites. In dogs, the larvae develop into adult worms, causing heartworm disease, whereas in humans, they typically fail to mature fully. However, in some cases, humans may experience pulmonary dirofilariasis, characterised by inflammation in response to heartworm larvae.

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04/6​Recognising symptoms of Heartworm infections

Symptoms of heartworm infections differ between dogs and humans due to variations in the development of the parasites. In animals, symptoms may include coughing, difficulty breathing, and organ complications. Human symptoms can range from abnormal cough and chest pain to fever and wheezing. Quick medical attention is crucial if such symptoms arise, as they can indicate health issues beyond heartworm infection.

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05/6​Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosing heartworm infection in humans often involves identifying characteristic lesions, termed coin lesions, on imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans. Tissue samples may be obtained through biopsy to confirm the presence of heartworms. Treatment focuses on addressing granulomas and associated symptoms, with surgical removal considered in cases of suspected cancerous tissue. Fortunately, most human cases do not require extensive treatment unless complications arise.

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06/6​Mitigating risks and protecting pets

Prevention remains the best strategy against heartworm disease for both pets and humans. Pet owners should consult veterinarians for preventive medications and regular testing for heartworms in dogs. Additionally, minimising exposure to mosquitoes through preventive measures such as insect repellents can reduce the risk of transmission to humans.

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