Health officials in a Belgian city have identified the source of pork tapeworm infections at a school.

Department Zorg said that after an extensive search, the person behind the infections at Het Molentje primary school was found.

Around 10 cases have been discovered in primary school children in the past year.

Investigations revealed this person has not been contagious since the summer of 2022 and contracted the tapeworm abroad. The pork tapeworm, also called Taenia solium, is very rare in Belgium and Europe, and cases of it are often linked to eating contaminated food in other countries.

No further risks
MRI screening was organized for students in the grades of infected children to detect undiscovered cases. MRI screening will also be offered to students from other years. This allows pupils to see if they have been infected in the past.

Joris Moonens, a spokesperson for Departement Zorg, said: “We were almost certain that there were no longer any infectious people present at the school and that the infections discovered last year must have happened in the past. We have now also been able to identify which person involved with the school was a carrier of a pork tapeworm and could have infected other people. Therefore, we can fully reassure the parents and the school that there are no longer any contamination risks.”

Previous advice to parents was to see a doctor if their child had unexplained and prolonged headaches, vision problems, vomiting, or epilepsy.

A tapeworm can develop in the small intestine when people eat contaminated and undercooked pork. Cysticercosis can occur when Taenia solium tapeworm eggs are ingested. People with poor hygiene who have taeniasis will shed tapeworm eggs in their feces, which might contaminate their environment. Cysticercosis occurs after a person swallows tapeworm eggs. The larvae get into tissues such as muscle and brain and form cysts.

The main way to prevent cysticercosis is to wash hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet and before handling food. One way to prevent taeniasis is to cook meat to a safe temperature of 145 degrees F for whole cuts, except poultry, and 160 degrees F for ground meat.

Role of lightly cooked bacon discussed in the case report

Meanwhile, poor handwashing and a lifelong preference for soft bacon were linked to a man’s illness in the United States.

The study highlighted the case of a 52-year-old man with a medical history of chronic migraines and no recent travel or farm exposures, who suffered from neurocysticercosis from undercooked bacon that presented as a change in his usual migraine headaches.

Neurocysticercosis is caused by Taenia solium when cysts embed within the nervous system. Cysticercosis is prevalent in developing countries, but developed countries are seeing more cases due to increased travel and immigration, according to the American Journal of Case Reports study.

Scientists speculated cysticercosis was transmitted via autoinfection due to improper handwashing after the man had contracted taeniasis from his eating habits.

The patient was treated with antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory medications, which led to regression of lesions and improvement of headaches.

“This case illustrates that neurocysticercosis should be considered when an existing neuropathological condition displays a change in presentation or requires a change in therapeutic management, even without obvious risk factors,” said researchers.

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