Tapeworms are long, flat worms that look like a piece of tape or ribbon. There are many different kinds of tapeworms. Some kinds are over 15 feet (4.5 meters) long, and one is over 30 feet (9 meters).
Different kinds of tapeworms live in the flesh of different animals and fish
You get tapeworms by eating undercooked food from animals with tapeworms in their flesh
Then the tapeworms grow inside your intestines
Doctors check your stool for tapeworm eggs
Worm pills usually kill tapeworms
Cook your food thoroughly so you don't get tapeworms
Animals and fish sometimes eat things contaminated with tapeworm eggs. The eggs hatch and burrow into the muscles of the animal or fish and form cysts.
Most of the time, you get tapeworm infection when you:
The cysts hatch into worms in your intestines. Then the tapeworms attach themselves to the lining of your intestines and grow.
Less often, people eat things contaminated with tapeworm eggs. Then the tapeworms can form cysts in your muscles. They also can form cysts in your liver, brain, and other organs and make you very sick.
Even big tapeworms in your intestines may not cause any symptoms. You may have a little diarrhea or a mild belly ache.
Tapeworm cysts that form in your body can cause serious symptoms depending on where they are:
In most developed countries, government inspectors check meat and fish for tapeworm cysts. Even so, the most important things to do are:
Freezing can kill fish tapeworms, but the fish has to be frozen for 7 days at -4° F (-20° C) or below. Smoking and drying meat and fish do not kill tapeworm cysts.