Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Humans

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Heartworm disease most often affects dogs and cats, but in rare cases it can also be spread to humans and cause some bothersome symptoms.

What is Heartworm?

  • Heartworm is a parasite that is transmitted through insect bites mainly from mosquitoes, and sometimes fleas, ticks, lice and flies. When an infected insect bites a human, the larvae often die, but occasionally they can survive and settle into organs, most often the lungs. When they eventually die this can lead to lesions, nodes or granulomas.

HPD

  • When the worms die off and leave these lesions, this is a condition known as human pulmonary dirofilariasis (HPD). Many people who have HPD experience no symptoms at all, and only find out they have the condition when they receive a chest X-ray for something else. But, some people will develop some symptoms.

Symptoms

  • With HPD, a person may experience a persistent cough and may have some chest pain. These symptoms are akin to those for other conditions such as cancer or tuberculosis, and anyone with a chronic cough or chest pain should visit their doctor. An HPD sufferer may also experience a mild fever and unexplained fatigue.

Diagnosis

  • If lesions from HPD show up on a chest X-ray, more testing is required to rule out other conditions. An excision and biopsy are performed to determine if it is HPD.

Prognosis

  • HPD is a very rare condition, and in recent decades the medical and veterinary communities have made great strides in prevention and detection. No humans have died from this condition.

References

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