Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Worms, Dogs, and Little Children

On Monday, our new puppy, Laird Woodrow the Wirehaired, was the unwilling recipient of his shots and worming treatment. 
Today on one of his half-dozen walks, he pooped out a half-dozen live worms.  I pointed them out to Husband Don.  “Those things were inside Woodrow?” he cried.
I dutifully picked up the wriggling pile of dog poop in my trademark blue bag and carried it home to the trash.

As I was thinking how the worms were stealing the nutrients in the Blue Buffalo® we have been feeding our baby dog-person, I started thinking about the baby human-persons around the world who are infected with worms, so I started reading. 

I learned that parasitic worms are call helminths.
I learned that more than a billion people worldwide are infected with soil-transmitted helminths due to inadequate sanitation.  A billion. 

If you can’t get your heart wrapped around a billion people suffering from worms, try this:  A person is suffering from nausea, dysentery, intestinal obstruction, rectal prolapse, anemia, weakness, lethargy.  And it’s happening a billion times right now. 

Or try to wrap your heart around this: 1 of every 7 humans suffers from worms.
The World Health Organization says that worldwide, 880 million children need treatment for debilitating worms at this moment.  And the brains of those children cannot develop properly when they are so ill.

Worms burrow into children’s feet from the soil or skin from infected water.  They invade through the bite of a black fly or a mosquito or through eating infected meat or vegetables.

I’m not saying all worms are bad.  In fact, worms have been found to produce positive benefits for some people in some small clinical trials that must be replicated.  Dr. Eric Hollander of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine has collected data that suggest that ingesting whipworm eggs may reduce repetitive behaviors in some people on the autism spectrum.  His treatment is based on the Hygiene Hypothesis that posits we live in such a sterile environment that we’ve developed autoimmune disorders that are less common in third-world countries. 
I get that.  All Earthlings evolved together.  Some of us are parasites on others of us.  I am a parasite on the animals I eat.  Mosquitoes are parasites on me, but I get to continue living.  Some of us Earthlings have symbiotic relationships.  Like Baby Woodrow and me.
I don’t know what would happen if all the worms in the world died off, but I suspect we’d all be dead in a matter of weeks.  So I’m not saying that worms are bad.  I’m simply saying that my dog had parasites in his belly, and those parasites would have made him sick, perhaps killed him in time.
And I am saying that a billion people in the world likewise have worms that make them sick.  And that 880 million of those people are little children.
I don’t shop at Christmas.  Instead, I donate to charities that serve the devastating numbers of animals in desperate need.  But perhaps this year I will write an extra check- not in lieu of, but in addition to my usual donations- to a charity that could rid a little girl in Liberia of the worms that this moment are causing her to vomit her guts out, or a tiny boy who will die because his bowel is blocked with a pile of wiggling worms like my Woodrow passed today.  Because no child should have to suffer with a disease that I cured my dog from for less than the cost of going out for pizza and beer.

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