Water Health Educator
Disease Focus: Schistomiasis
by Lindsay Boyce
Considered to be a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTDs), Shistosomiasis is a disease that affects more than 200 million people world wide. Second only to malaria in terms of impact it is one of the most devastating parasitic diseases.
The parasites that cause Schistosomiasis live in specific types of freshwater snails. The parasite emerges from the snail and then contaminates the water. Transmission of this disease occurs when the skin comes into contact with contaminated freshwater. Most human infections are caused by three parasites Schistosoma mansoni, S. Haernatobium, or S. japonicum.
Symptoms of schistosomiasis may include rash or itchy skin. However, it is important to note that most people are asymptomatic when they are first infected. As the disease progresses more symptoms develop including fever, chills, cough and muscle aches.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) Treatment is critical. Without treatment this disease can last for years and chronic symptoms include abdominal pain, enlarged liver, blood in the stool or blood in the urine, problems passing urine and the increased risk of bladder cancer. The easiest form of treatment is prescription medication taken for 1-2 days.
Overall, prevention of schistomomiasis needs to be a primary focus, especially for developing countries where medications may not always be readily available. Some prevention techniques offered by the CDC are, not swimming or wading in areas where schistomomiasis is prevalent, utilizing safe drinking water techniques boil water before using, and finally vigorously towel drying if exposure to contaminated water happens may prevent the parasite from penetrating the skin.
Schistomomias is a disease that with proper prevention techniques and knowledge about treatment can be, while annoying a fairly non harmful disease.
Schistosomiasis in West Africa
By Zakia Chapman
Schistosomiasis in West Africa.pdf (PDF — 181 KB)
Schistosomiasis – A Brief
By Nicole Kraatz
Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by a parasitic worm. Schistosomiasis is also know as “Snail Fever.”It is a water based disease. The disease occurs when a person handles contaminated freshwater that contains one of the 350 snail species that may have the worm growing in their system. After exiting the snail, the parasite lives in the water for up to 48 hours. This parasitic worm was first discovered in humans in 1851 by German physician, Theodor Bilharz. Currently, there are over 200 million people infected with the disease worldwide.
Symptoms of schistosomiasis are not caused by the parasitic worm itself, but the reaction the body has to the worm’s eggs invading it’s system. Once infected with the disease, a person can either be classified as having acute or chronic schistosomiasis. The typical incubation period for acute schistosomiasis is 14-84 days. However, those that develop chronic schistosomiasis can remain asymptomatic for years at a time. Symptoms of acute schistosomiasis include high temperature, headache, muscle pain, cough or bloody diarrhea. Often times, those with acute schistosomiasis heal on their own within a few weeks. Those with chronic schistosomiasis experience symptoms based on the part of the body the parasite infects. Different parts and symptoms of the body include the digestive, urinary, and central nervous systems as well as the heart, lungs and female genitals. Currently, the best method of treatment for schistosomiasis is pharmaceutical drugs. The recommend drug for treatment is Praziquantel.
Schistosomiasis is considered to be a disease of poverty. This means those most at risk for the disease live in regions where communities are poor and there is a lack of proper water sanitation. Populations considered to be most at risk for this disease include school-aged children in endemic areas and people with occupations involving water, such as fishermen, farmers and irrigation workers. Prevention methods are based on trying to improve access to safe water, improved water sanitation, hygiene control and snail control.