Can Humans Get Heartworm?

Posted by Mosquito Squad
Can Humans Get Heartworm?

May 28, 2024

Author: Emma Grace Crumbley, Entomologist 

Heartworm is a disease caused by parasitic roundworms (Dirofilaria immitis) that affects pets like dogs, cats, and ferrets and wild animals like wolves, coyotes, and raccoons. Animals become infected with heartworm after being bitten by an infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, the immature roundworm larvae are picked up by the mosquito and carried over two weeks. While inside the mosquito, the microfilaria mature into their infectious form, and during the next blood meal, the worms enter their new host through the mosquito's saliva.

Once an animal contracts heartworm, the parasite takes seven months to develop fully. What starts as a microscopic worm will grow to a foot in length, taking over the animal's heart, lungs, and nearby blood vessels. Signs of heartworm will range from mild symptoms like fatigue and coughing to severe symptoms like weight loss and heart failure. If your pet begins showing signs of unusual behavior or extreme discomfort, consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible.

So… What Does That Mean for Humans?

While heartworm is primarily a canine disease, there are rare cases documented that show humans contracting heartworm. The cases of human heartworm are much lower because the human immune system is better equipped than the canine immune system when identifying foreign invaders and defending areas of infection. Additionally, heartworm is not contagious and cannot be passed between animals or animals and people without a mosquito vector. Animals that spend most of their time outdoors are more prone to mosquito bites and heartworm transmission than humans are. 

Heartworm Prevention

Whether you’re worried for your pet’s safety or your own, there are many things you can do to prevent heartworm infections in both animals and people. Several medications can be prescribed for dogs and cats to prevent worms from maturing after entering the animal's bloodstream. These medications can be given to pets orally, through spot treatments, or by injection, and it's highly recommended to keep your pets on an annual schedule for preventative heartworm treatments. For people, prevention comes in the form of vector reduction. Reducing mosquito breeding grounds, adding screens and mosquito netting around the house, and wearing long clothes and bug spray outdoors are all ways to keep mosquitoes from biting you.

Protect Your Furry Friends.

Mosquito Squad is here to help protect your pets. Our mosquito control services keep your outdoor spaces peaceful, not pest-full. Call us today for a free quote and to learn more about our traditional and natural mosquito control treatments!