Causes - Whipworm infection is caused by ingesting of the parasite’s eggs. Infection most often occurs when people/animal put dirt-covered hand or fingers in their mouth or when eating vegetables or fruits that are not sufficiently washed, peeled or cooked. Worms and their larvae will live in the intestine of their person or animal host. Adult worms lay eggs, which are further distributed in the feces of the infested host. Whipworms are found worldwide, but they really love warm, humid climates.
Treatment - Fertile female worms can produce about 2,000 eggs a day, which will remain viable in soils for years. The eggs, which have thick walls, are able to withstand heat and freezing. Overall, whipworms are very resistant to even extreme changes in their environment. Consequently, they are very hard to eradicate from soil. Here are a few suggestions:
- In small areas removal of the top few inches of topsoil can prevent future re-infections.
- Wash concrete surfaces with diluted chlorine bleach on a weekly basis.
- In large yard spaces, tilling the soil and treating with a strong drying agent, such as agricultural lime, will eliminate some eggs.
- Diatomaceous Earth (DE) may also help reduce whipworm infestations. Thoroughly distribute the substance over the infected area. Reapply monthly and after any hard rain storms. Use only food grade DE, which is non-toxic to people and animals.
- In extreme cases, soil removal and replacement with clean soil, pavement and gravel will be the most effective preventative soil treatments.
Companion Animal Parasite Council: Frequently Asked Questions
Iowa State University: Whipworm Infection
Pet Education.com; Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis); Holly Nash