Schistosomiasis

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Overview

Schistosomiasis is an acute and chronic parasitic disease caused by blood flukes (trematode worms) of the genus Schistosoma. Estimates show that at least 236.6 million people required preventive treatment in 2019. Preventive treatment, which should be repeated over a number of years, will reduce and prevent morbidity.

Symptoms

Many people have no symptoms of schistosomiasis. Early signs and symptoms (those that happen within days of being infected) may include itchiness and a skin rash.

Later symptoms (those that develop within 30 to 60 days of being infected) may include:

Fever.

Chills.

Cough.

Muscle aches and pain.

If you aren’t treated, symptoms that develop after years of being infected may include:

Pain in your stomach.

Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly).

Blood in your urine (pee), also called hematuria.

Difficulty or pain while urinating (dysuria).

Blood in feces (poop), also called hematochezia.

Miscarriage.

Chronic (long-lasting) schistosomiasis may make it more likely that you’ll develop scars on your liver or bladder cancer.

In rare cases, you might have eggs in your brain or spinal cord. If this is true, you may have seizures, become paralyzed or have an inflamed spinal cord.

Causes

Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasite that resides in certain snails in freshwater locations. The form of the parasite that leaves the snail penetrates human skin with its forked head. Infected people release urine and feces that are infected with eggs into water where the snails are. The eggs move into the snails and the cycle goes on. Infected children and adults get infected over and over again.

However, people don’t infect each other. You can’t give schistosomiasis to another person if you have it.

Researchers are working to find a way to control the disease, with some efforts directed toward vaccine development and others toward finding a way to deal with the snails.

Risk factors

The risk factors associated with schistosomiasis were age, household head, poor sanitation, access to water source and knowledge about schistosomiasis. Conclusion: The Ndumo area is considered a moderate zone for schistosomiasis endemicity according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) classification.

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Complications

Without treatment, schistosomiasis can persist for years. Signs and symptoms of chronic schistosomiasis include: abdominal pain, enlarged liver, blood in the stool or blood in the urine, and problems passing urine. Chronic infection can also lead to increased risk of liver fibrosis or bladder cancer.

Prevention

There are things you shouldn’t do in water from fresh pools or lakes or rivers in areas that are known to have the snails and parasites that cause schistosomiasis.

Don’t assume that the water is safe just because people tell you it’s OK. It’s better to not take the chance in areas where the parasite is known to exist.

Don’t drink from these bodies of water. It’s not that you’ll get the parasites from drinking the water, but they can enter your skin around your mouth.

Don’t bathe or swim in these waters.

Don’t wash clothes in these waters.

Don’t fish in these bodies of water.

If you do get wet, you can use a towel to dry yourself off with vigorous motions. That may help, but you shouldn’t rely on it.

Practice safe sex, using a condom.

Wash your hands regularly, especially after handling uncooked food or feces.

Cook food to its recommended internal temperature.

Drink clean water, including bottled water when you're traveling.