Department of Agriculture
What you should know about beef tapeworms
tapeworms live in the food canal of people.
tapeworm is flat, white and very long (up to 10-15 metres).
- Its body consists of many
segments as shown in the picture.
- New segments are formed at
- Segments are pushed downwards
to the end of the worm as new ones are formed.
- The segments at the end of
the body mature/develop. This means that they are filled with eggs.
- These segments become loose
and either leave the body of the human passively with the excreta or
crawl out of the anus.
- Every time the segment moves,
it deposits thousands of eggs on every surface it comes into contact
- People get beef tapeworms by
eating beef which has not been cooked well and which contains measles.
- Cattle get measles by grazing
on pastures soiled by the excreta of humans who have beef tapeworms.
- They also get measles from
animal handlers who are infected with beef tapeworms, when the worms
crawl out of the handlers and infect the kraal, feed and water-troughs.
Beef with measles
- After the tapeworm eggs have been ingested by
cattle, they hatch in the food canal.
- The young worms go through the wall of the food
canal and enter the bloodstream.
- The worms reach the muscles (beef) through the
blood and become fixed there in the form of measles.
- Measles in beef look like little white sacs
filled with water.
If you are infected with beef tapeworms,
- always feel hungry
and lose mass
This is because beef
tapeworms are parasites which absorb the food you need.
They allow you to digest
the food you have eaten and then use the digested food for their own growth,
leaving very little for you.
This will lead to
How do you know you have beef tapeworms?
The mature segments can
move on their own. They leave the human body through the anus and move around
on your clothes.
- you wil feel uncomfortable and itchy around the
- you will see flat, white, fleshy sacs in your
underwear, on your clothes and even shoes
- you will see long, white strips in your excreta.
What to do if you think you have beef
- If you see something strange in your underwear
or in your stool, collect it in a bottle or bag and take it to your clinic
- At the clinic they will do tests and prescribe
medicine to kill the worms.
- People are often too
embarrassed if they suspect that they have beef tapeworms to discuss the
matter with someone who can help them.
- But it is better to be
healthy than to be ashamed and ill! Tapeworms can be very dangerous.
- Do not delay if you think you
have worms. You are not only neglecting your own health but you are
spreading the worms and infecting other people as well.
- Speak to the doctor or nurse
How to prevent tapeworm infection
- Do not buy meat from informal (unregistered)
butchers because it may have measles.
- Make sure that you eat meat which is well
cooked. This will kill the measles.
- Do not eat raw meat.
- If you suspect that beef contains measles you
must freeze it for at least 3 days at a very low temperature before eating
it (-18 °C).
- Use proper toilets. Never use the veld as a
How to prevent measles in your cattle if
you are a farmer
- Provide proper (clean) toilet facilities for
- If toilets are well-ventilated, people are more
inclined to use them. Unventilated toilets cause
a foul repugnant odour.
- Inform your employees (workers) about tapeworm
- Provide treatment for your employees against
- Keep your animals in fenced pastures—do not let
them graze on roadside verges because inconsiderate travellers frequently
Why should you prevent measles in your
- You must
ensure that you produce safe food for the consumer.
- You will get less money for your beef if your
cattle are slaughtered at a controlled abattoir where proper meat
inspections are carried out and your cattle are found to be infected with
- Beef containing measles will infect more people,
which in turn will infect greater numbers
How will you know that your cattle are
infected with measles?
- There are
no signs (symptoms) in cattle infected with measles.
- When you slaughter your cattle on the farm,
carry out meat inspections by making a few cuts in the jaw muscles and
inspecting the cut surface for white, water-filled sacs.
Can you treat your cattle for measles?
- Yes, but it is VERY expensive.
- Cattle can be reinfected after treatment.
- All the cattle should be treated, because there
are no signs to make detection easy.
Substitute the vicious cycle with a good
- Beef tapeworms and measles in beef represent a
vicious health-threatening cycle—we can
all prevent it in our daily food chain.
- The farmer, butcher and consumer also create a
cycle for food production.
Everyone has to cooperate in ensuring a
The farmer — by implementing good farming
— by taking precautions to limit exposure of cattle to
The butcher — by protecting clients
— by ensuring the beef sold is properly inspected for
The public— by supporting the farmers in
producing safe food
— by being considerate and maintaining good hygiene at all times.
Prevention is better than cure!
For further information contact the
Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute of the ARC
Compiled by Directorate
Communication, National Department of Agriculture
in cooperation with
Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute of the ARC
Printed and published by
National Department of Agriculture
and obtainable from
Resource Centre, Directorate Communication, Private Bag X144, Pretoria 0001,