Parasites in Ecuador are something to be aware of, but not something to be overly worried about. Since we arrived in Ecuador in 2017, neither of us have had a parasite, and we only know two people who were medically tested and confirmed to have them.
However, both our dogs tested positive for intestinal amoebas when we lived in Cuenca, but a course of antibiotics quickly took care of them. Daisy most likely got them from drinking out of the river, and gave them to Alicia via their shared water bowl.
Parasites vs Bacteria Symptoms & Treatment
If you’re hunkered over the toilet (or sitting on it) with gut pain and cold sweats, you may have food poisoning from either a parasite or bacterial infection.
The symptoms are mostly the same for both: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache, fever and/or headache. And the only way to know which one you have is with a blood or fecal test.
If you have a bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics usually takes care of it. If you have a parasite, you’ll need either an antibiotic or an anti-parasitic drug.
If you think you have either, go to the doctor as soon as possible because you’re not likely to get well without treatment.
Parasite Causes & Prevention
The most common source of parasitic and bacterial infections in Ecuador is from eating undercooked food, street food, unwashed fruit or raw vegetables, and by drinking untreated tap water.
Most of the produce sold in the mercados is fresh from the farm and covered in dirt, and most of the animal products are butchered in open-air wet markets and hung up for sale without refrigeration (often covered in flies). That means food from the mercados (where we frequently buy our produce) is the perfect breeding ground for parasites and bacteria.
The best way to prevent parasites and bacterial infections is to avoid street food and unrefrigerated animal products, thoroughly wash all your fruits and vegetables, thoroughly cook your food, and only drink chlorinated, filtered or bottled water.
Food poisoning from parasites and bacteria can happen anywhere, including the United States. Luckily, you can easily minimize your risk of getting one, and medical treatment is readily available if you do. Take some common sense precautions, but don’t spend too much energy worrying about it.
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