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Enterobiasis

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Disease Details

Incubation Period:

  • 2-6 weeks

Transmission Type(s):

Disease Reservoirs

Disease Agents

About Enterobiasis

Risk Factors

The people most likely to be infected with pinworm are children under 18, people who take care of infected children and people who are institutionalized. In these groups, the prevalence can reach 50%.

Pinworm is the most common worm infection in the United States. Humans are the only species that can transfer this parasite. Household pets like dogs and cats cannot become infected with human pinworms. Pinworm eggs can survive in the indoor environment for 2 to 3 weeks.

Epidemiology

Pinworm infections are more common within families with school-aged children, in primary caregivers of infected children, and in institutionalized children.

A person is infected with pinworms by ingesting pinworm eggs either directly or indirectly. These eggs are deposited around the anus by the worm and can be carried to common surfaces such as hands, toys, bedding, clothing, and toilet seats. By putting anyone’s contaminated hands (including one’s own) around the mouth area or putting one’s mouth on common contaminated surfaces, a person can ingest pinworm eggs and become infected with the pinworm parasite. Since pinworm eggs are so small, it is possible to ingest them while breathing.

Once someone has ingested pinworm eggs, there is an incubation period of 1 to 2 months or longer for the adult gravid female to mature in the small intestine. Once mature, the adult female worm migrates to the colon and lays eggs around the anus at night, when many of their hosts are asleep. People who are infected with pinworm can transfer the parasite to others for as long as there is a female pinworm depositing eggs on the perianal skin. A person can also re-infect themselves, or be re-infected by eggs from another person.

Enterobiasis Prevention

Washing your hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before handling food is the most successful way to prevent pinworm infection. In order to stop the spread of pinworm and possible re-infection, people who are infected should bathe every morning to help remove a large amount of the eggs on the skin. Showering is a better method than taking a bath, because showering avoids potentially contaminating the bath water with pinworm eggs. Infected people should not co-bathe with others during their time of infection.

Also, infected people should comply with good hygiene practices such as washing their hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before handling food. They should also cut fingernails regularly, and avoid biting the nails and scratching around the anus. Frequent changing of underclothes and bed linens first thing in the morning is a great way to prevent possible transmission of eggs in the environment and risk of reinfection. These items should not be shaken and carefully placed into a washer and laundered in hot water followed by a hot dryer to kill any eggs that may be there.

In institutions, day care centers, and schools, control of pinworm can be difficult, but mass drug administration during an outbreak can be successful. Teach children the importance of washing hands to prevent infection.