National Department of Agriculture
Virbac RSA



What you should know about beef tapeworms

·         Beef tapeworms live in the food canal of people.

·         A 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 the neck.
  • 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 with.
  • 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

If you are infected with beef tapeworms, you will

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

  • stomach cramps
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • tiredness.

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.


What to do if you think you have beef tapeworms


  • 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 today!


How to prevent tapeworm infection

How to prevent measles in your cattle if you are a farmer

Why should you prevent measles in your cattle?

How will you know that your cattle are infected with measles?

Can you treat your cattle for measles?

Substitute the vicious cycle with a good cycle!

Everyone has to cooperate in ensuring a healthy cycle

The farmer — by implementing good farming practices

— by taking precautions to limit exposure of cattle to measles.

The butcher — by protecting clients

— by ensuring the beef sold is properly inspected for measles.

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, South Africa