Cooking meat properly has always been the norm in our communities. Even our “outete” meat at kapana is thoroughly cooked, the Namibian style.
However, the tapeworm (or whitish flat segmental worms, “lintwurm”, “ozondeku”) found in beef containing the tapeworm cysts when it is raw or inadequately cooked, makes people sick. That is our focus.
Tapeworm infestation is a bit complex but the beef tapeworm, Taenia saginatta, is actually contracted through a cycle between cattle and humans. The lifecycle of the tapeworm starts with the adult worm, which is up to 10 meters long and grows in the intestines of human beings. In fact, people who have these worms in their intestines pass the worms through their faeces. Then the eggs of the tapeworms are picked up and eaten by cattle when grazing. The eggs end up in the muscles of cattle where they develop into watery cysts called Cysticercosis bovis or beef measles.
Basically, the common name for this disease is ‘beef measles’. Often at the abattoirs, meat with such infestation is easily recognised and discarded from human consumption. But at informal markets where there are no health inspectors, the tapeworms are often overlooked.
When human beings eat the infected meat, the immature tapeworms end up in the human intestines where they mature before they are passed out in the faeces, thus continuing the cycle. A similar tapeworm, Taenia solium, also affects humans when raw or poorly-cooked meat is eaten from pigs.
Most adult tapeworms do not really make animals sick but a tapeworm cyst can make humans, especially children, very sick. Common signs in infected humans include weight loss, diarrhoea and stomach aches.
To treat cattle for beef tapeworm infestation, use either injectable, such as Dectomax ®, or Ivermectin or oral de-wormers, such as medicines with praziquantel, albedazole or fenbendazole.
Note; calves should be de-wormed at least a month before they are weaned from their mothers.
Control of beef tapeworms:
Make it a habit to always carefully inspect meat for tapeworms. Never eat beef if tapeworm cysts are suspected.
Cook meat thoroughly at all times, especially in rural areas where more open defecation is practiced. Whatever you do, make sure the meat is not red, pinkish and bloody.
The tapeworms can be killed by freezing, thus holding the infected carcass for three weeks in a freezer can also help to kill the cysts.
It is important to treat people, especially children regularly when infected by tapeworms. Do not ignore your child when they complain that pale stuff are coming out with the kaka. Better consult your doctor immediately.
In the rural areas, it is important to avoid open defecation as much as possible, especially when you live close to livestock and dig deep pit latrines. Otherwise, faeces should be covered underground where animals cannot have access to them. Under no circumstances should animals be exposed to human feces.
The most important rule in personal hygiene is to wash hands thoroughly with soapy water after using the toilet or going to the bush; adhere to that.
Also wash vegetables before eating, you never know what types of gogatjies might lurk in the food.
Prevent cattle from tapeworms by rotating them in different camps (rotational grazing). Young calves can also be put in clean pastures rather than those recently used by adult animals.
There you have it, my village people. Discourage open “bush toilets”, inspect meat properly for beef measles, cook the kapana meat thoroughly and most importantly, regularly treat your livestock against worms.