is an intestinal illness caused by a one-celled
parasite (amoeba) called Entamoeba histolytica (ent-a-ME-ba his-to-LI-ti-ka).
Although anyone can have this disease, it is most
common in people who live in developing countries
that have poor sanitary conditions. In the United
States, amebiasis is most often found in immigrants
from developing countries. It also is found in people
who have traveled to developing countries and in
people who live in institutions that have poor sanitary
conditions. Men who have sex with men can become
infected and can get sick from the infection, but
they often do not have symptoms.
is this parasite spread?
is contracted by swallowing the cyst stage of the
parasite in contaminated food or water. It can also
be spread by person-to-person contact.
are the symptoms of amebiasis?
exposed to this parasite may experience mild or
severe symptoms or no symptoms at all. Fortunately,
most exposed people do not become seriously ill.
The mild form of amebiasis includes nausea, loose
stools, weight loss, abdominal tenderness and occasional
fever. Rarely, the parasite will invade the body
beyond the intestines and cause a more serious infection,
such as a liver abscess.
soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
symptoms may appear from a few days to a few months
after exposure but usually within two to four weeks.
long can an infected person carry this parasite?
people with amebiasis may carry the parasite for
weeks to years, often without symptoms.
are the parasites that cause amebiasis found?
people are the only sources of the parasite. Fecal
material from infected people may contaminate water
or food which may serve as a vehicle to infect others.
Animals are not infected with and do not carry the
parasite. Flies, in some parts of the world, may
transfer cysts from human stool to fruits and vegetables.
is it diagnosed?
of stools under a microscope is the most common
way for a doctor to diagnose amebiasis. Sometimes,
several stool samples must be obtained because the
number of amoeba changes from day to day.
is the treatment for amebiasis?
antibiotics are available to treat amebiasis. Treatment
must be prescribed by a physician. You will be treated
with only one antibiotic if your E. histolytica
infection has not made you sick. You probably will
be treated with two antibiotics (first one and then
the other) if your infection has made you sick.
an infected person be excluded from work or school?
it is not necessary to exclude an infected person
from work or school. Casual contact at work or school
is unlikely to transmit the disease. Special precautions
may be needed by foodhandlers or children enrolled
in day care settings, or individuals in institutions
for the developmentally disabled. Consult your local
health department for advice in such instances.
precautions should the infected person follow?
most important precaution is careful handwashing
before eating or preparing food and after each toilet
visit. Proper disposal of sewage is also important.
Infected persons should refrain from oral-genital
contact until effectively treated.
can I get more information?
local health department, listed in your telephone
Utah Department of Health, Office of Epidemiology
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
OFFICE OF EPIDEMIOLOGY