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Facts About...


What is it?

Amebiasis is an intestinal disease caused by a microscopic parasite called Entamoeba histolytica. The disease occurs throughout the world. Infection is higher in areas with poor sanitation. Amebiasis can easily be passed to others in your family if preventative measures are not taken.

How is it spread?

When a person becomes infected, the parasites remain in the intestinal tract even though the person may not feel ill. As long as the parasites live in the intestinal tract, they will be excreted in the feces. Therefore, if hands are not washed after defecation or changing a diaper, the parasite can be spread by personal contact or by contaminating food that others will eat. Food or water that is contaminated by the parasite if ingested can spread the disease. Transmission may also occur sexually by oral-anal contact.

What do I look for?

Symptoms vary from acute dysentery (i.e., fever, chills and diarrhea with blood or mucous) to mild abdominal cramps and diarrhea containing blood or mucus alternating with periods of constipation or remission.

The incubation period is variable, ranging from a few days to months or years, but commonly 2 to 4 weeks.

How is it treated?

Amebiasis should be treated with medications. There are several effective drugs that your doctor can prescribe. Contact your doctor for treatment advice.

How can I protect myself?

Wash your hands after defecation and changing diapers. Also, wash your hands before and after handling and eating food. Ensure hands are washed for a minimum of 15 seconds with warm water and soap and dry with a single use towel.

Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables with potable water prior to eating.

Treatment of drinking water will control the spread of infection. Always drink water from a safe supply. If you have a private well, test the water for bacteria at least 4 times per year. The Health Department will supply sample bottles, and assist with interpretation of results.

If you have amebiasis, you must not prepare food for others until you have been symptom free for at least 24 hours. Excellent personal hygiene is always required.

Use condoms and avoid sexual practices that may permit fecal-oral transmission.

More information can be obtained from

Durham Region Health Department, Environmental Help Line 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613

April 22, 2013