We are fortunate here in the U.S., because there is very little risk of contracting the disease due to our advances in sanitation and waste management.
In affected developing countries, hookworm is a leading cause of maternal and child morbidity. There are between 576-740 million infected individuals today . Of these infected individuals, about 80 million are severely affected . A majority of infected individuals live in poverty-stricken areas with poor sanitation. Hookworm infection is most concentrated among the world’s poorest who live on less than $2 a day .
In developing nations, many children can’t afford shoes or sandals and live, play, walk and go to school (if they are fortunate enough to have access to schools) barefoot. These children also don’t have access to clean water to wash their hands, and live in environments with improper sanitation and bathrooms. Very often, their water source is very close to their toilet area or near livestock, making it very easy for the hookworm to infect children. In prime conditions, the larvae of hookworms are capable of penetrating children’s skin within a few seconds. In susceptible children, hookworms can impair both their growth and learning. Infected children also end up missing school. Because this disease saps vital nutrients and energy from these children, this disease indirectly causes the death of many children by decreasing their immunity and increasing their susceptibility to other infections, that they normally would be able to fight. Long term, this disease can ultimately decrease the economic productivity of entire communities.
The good thing is that Hookworm infection is entirely preventable.