Three children with pork tapeworm: ‘almost certainly of foreign origin’

Nausea, epilepsy and emerging blindness. The symptoms of infected children at the primary school in Leer are not mild. The exact origin of the infection is currently speculative by researchers. “There is no pork tapeworm in Belgium. Not even in our neighboring countries. Neither in pigs, nor in humans,” Munens says.

The Agency for Health and Care (AZG) has launched an investigation to determine the source of the infection. “For this purpose, we have taken stool samples from part of the faculty and staff responsible for food preparation. This investigation is currently without result.”

“The second method is to ask the parents about their travel history in recent years,” Munens says. “There can be two to three years between infection and the first symptoms. That makes it very difficult to find out the origin. The last outbreak in the Western world was in the 1990s, and that was in America.”

“One hypothesis is that transmission occurred while preparing food at school, because that is the only link we found between the three patients, but we will probably never find out.”

“The children’s current situation belongs in their own medical file,” Munens concludes. “But I can tell they are out of danger.”

According to the Direngezondheidszorg Vlaanderen (DZG), there is no concern about the disease spreading to our pig farms. “We don’t see any concern among Flemish pig keepers at the moment because they deworm their animals two to three times a year, so the risk is minimal for us,” says DZG’s Mitch Gillis. “In the past, contamination was common because there was no sewage system. And because hygiene and biosecurity are at a high level in our western countries, the risk is much lower today. If an infected person ends up working for a Flemish company, of course the risk is still there.”

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Megan Vasquez

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