Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharziasis , is caused by parasitic worms. Infection occurs in people when they come in contact with certain parasites such as Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, and S. japonicum. These parasites may be present in contaminated fresh water and the snails that live in it.
Symptoms for schistosomiasis surface within days after the infection and continue till months. Note that the symptoms are caused by the body’s reaction to the eggs produced by worms, not by the worms themselves. Below are the signs and symptoms of schistosomiasis:
- Developing a rash or having itchy skin
- Muscle pain
More rare but severe symptoms for schistosomiasis include:
- Spinal cord inflammation
- Liver damage
- Intestine damage
- Lung damage
- Bladder damage
Schistosomiasis Risk Factors
Schistosomiasis occurs in places with poor sanitation and infects over 200 million people worldwide. Different types of these parasites are found in different parts of the world – mostly in Africa and South America.
This is distributed throughout southern and sub-Saharan Africa and can be present in any water body, large or small. Transmission also occurs in the Nile river valley.
Other places where this type of Schistosoma is common are Brazil, Suriname, Venezuela and in Caribbean countries such as Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Martinique and St Lucia.
Just like mansoni, haemotobium is also distributed throughout Africa and in some areas of the Middle East.
This is mostly found in Indonesia, parts of China and Southeast Asia.
This is found in Cambodia and Laos
This is found in parts of Central and West Africa
In order to confirm that you have schistosomiasis, your doctor will test your stool or urine sample. A blood test will also be taken but only after a few weeks after you last exposure to contaminated water for most accurate results.
The treatment for schistosomiasis depends on how much damage the infection has done. Based on this, there are several safe and effective drugs available for the treatment of schistosomiasis.