Persons with cystic echinococcosis often remain asymptomatic until hydatid cysts containing the larval parasites grow large enough to cause discomfort, pain, nausea, and vomiting. The cysts grow over the course of several years before reaching maturity and the rate at which symptoms appear typically depends on the location of the cyst. The cysts are mainly found in the liver and lungs but can also appear in the spleen, kidneys, heart, bone, and central nervous system, including the brain and eyes. Cyst rupture is most frequently caused by trauma and may cause mild to severe anaphylactic reactions, even death, as a result of the release of cystic fluid.
Alveolar echinococcosis (AE) is characterized by parasitic tumors in the liver and may spread to other organs including the lungs and brain. In humans, the larval forms of E. multilocularis do not fully mature into cysts but cause vesicles that invade and destroy surrounding tissues and cause discomfort or pain, weight loss, and malaise. AE can cause liver failure and death because of the spread into nearby tissues and, rarely, the brain. AE is a dangerous disease resulting in a mortality rate between 50% and 75%, especially because most affected people live in remote locations and have poor health care.