Learn something new every day More Info... by email
A liver fluke infection, which is an infection of parasitic worms called flukes, can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms. Among the most common are abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. A person with this condition may also develop a fever and generally feel unwell. Some people may also notice hives, poor appetite, and unexplained weight loss when they have a liver fluke infection. It is important to note, however, that some people do not experience symptoms when they have liver fluke infections.
When a person has liver fluke infection, his body has been infected with trematodes, which are parasitic worms ingested when one eats certain types of raw or undercooked fish. Symptoms don't always develop with this condition. When they do develop, however, they typically include abdominal pain in the part of the abdomen that houses the liver—the upper right side. This symptom typically results from the movement of the parasitic worms from the intestine to the liver and their subsequent burrowing in the patient’s liver. A patient may also feel abdominal pain when the flukes periodically obstruct the biliary system, which is responsible for the creation, storage, and movement of bile.
An individual may also develop fevers in relation to liver fluke infection. Often, fevers develop when a person is initially infected and during the earliest stages of infection. Sometimes a person may also develop fevers during periods in which the liver flukes obstruct the biliary system.
In many cases, a person with a liver fluke infection also experiences such gastrointestinal symptoms as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms of liver fluke infection frequently develop during the early stages of infection, and some patients may experience them for months after its onset. After the initial months of the infection, a patient may experience relief from these symptoms. They may return, however, as a result of inflammation the flukes cause or their obstruction of the biliary system.
Sometimes a patient may develop hives as a symptom of liver flukes as well. This occurs when the immune system recognizes flukes as foreign invaders and causes an allergic reaction. Likewise, poor appetite, weight loss, and a general feeling of being unwell may also develop as signs of a liver fluke infection. Malaise often occurs in early stages of the infection but may occur later as well, especially if the flukes cause permanent damage to the patient's liver. Appetite and weight loss are most common with long-term infection.
@pleonasm - Actually it's the liver fluke known as the "Chinese liver fluke" that's the worst human liver fluke in terms of numbers.
They think it might be infecting around 30 million people, particularly in China and Japan. When you think about the traditional diets of people in those areas, you can see why they'd be vulnerable to a parasite transmitted through fish.
It's not really that deadly, but it lives off bile, which means it can severely affect digestion.
And over time it can definitely weaken someone so that they might be killed by a secondary infection.
It's most definitely not a pleasant disease.
@pleonasm - It's easy enough to detect though, and can be treated with a single dose of the right medication, thank god. It's only when you leave the parasites to develop that it can get really bad.
I think because they are such large parasites, and not really all that integrated with the body, like, say malaria or guinea worm, so they are easy to target with a liver fluke treatment.
So, if you know you're in an area prone to liver flukes and you eat raw fish and start having stomach pain, go and get checked out.
It can be asymptomatic as well, so I personally think regular checkups are generally a good idea anyway.
I know there's a kind of liver fluke called a "cat liver fluke" which both people and cats get from eating fish.
Apparently millions of people in Russia have it, because it's quite common there, and they have raw fish in some of their dishes. I imagine a lot of Russian cats have it as well.
The best way to prevent liver flukes is to cook all your fish thoroughly. As far as I understand it, it's caught from fresh water fish, so most sushi and sashimi (which is prepared from ocean fish) should be safe enough.
It's quite an awful disease and can really lay you up for a long time if you let it get bad enough.