Although disgusting, tapeworms are actually one of the least damaging parasites that infect people and animals. They are common in Third World countries where sanitary conditions are not widely available. They can also be acquired by eating meat that has not been thoroughly cooked. This article presents a general guideline about where tapeworms exist in the world today.
Tapeworm infection in animals or people is a good indicator that other parasites are present. Proper deworming protocols should be followed to purge all parasites from the infected host. Tapeworms exist in every environment in the world, from the coldest to the hottest. Wherever vertebrates exist, tapeworm colonies co-exist with them.
Tapeworms are flat and white, and can be from 1 inch to 30 feet long. They attach themselves to the walls of their host's intestines and can live for years, producing literally millions of eggs. The tapeworm has both male and female sex organs and can self-fertilize. They pass segments of themselves through the feces of the host. They are most prevalent in third world countries where sanitation is often compromised.
Tapeworms are visible to the naked eye. Often, you can see small white, flat bits of the worm pulsing from the anus of the infected host. These parts break off and fall onto the ground. They can be ingested and start the cycle all over again in other animals. You can't see the head of a tapeworm unless it has died and been purged.
Tapeworms are often not nearly as harmful to their host as other parasites, such as roundworms. Although they can produce anemia and malnutrition, it usually takes a long time before the worm becomes large enough to cause this kind of trouble. If left unchecked, they can produce lingering health problems as they block the intestines. Fish have been found with tapeworms that are as long as their entire digestive tracts.
Tapeworms live in almost all land, ocean, and freshwater habitats where their host--vertebrates--live. Most adult tapeworms live in the intestines of their hosts, but a few species live inside the body cavity. Wherever you find their hosts in the world, you are likely to find active colonies of tapeworms. They are truly a global parasite that can make any environment their home.