Schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever and bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic flatworms called schistosomes. The urinary tract or the intestines may be infected. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, or blood in the urine. Those who have been infected for a long time may experience liver damage, kidney failure, infertility, or bladder cancer. In children, it may cause poor growth and learning difficulty.
The disease is caused by contact with fresh water containing the parasites. These parasites are from infected freshwater snails. The disease is very common among children in developing countries, as they are more likely to play in water. Other high-risk groups include farmers, fishermen, and people using unclean water. It is a helminth infections. Eggs of the parasite may be found in urine or stool. Antibodies may also be found in the blood.
To prevent the disease use clean water and reduce snails. The medicine praziquantel may be given once a year to everybody. This will decrease the number of people infected. Praziquantel is also the treatment recommended by the World Health Organization for those who are known to be infected.
Schistosomiasis affected about 252 million people in 2015. An estimated 4,400 to 200,000 people die from it each year. The disease is mainly found in Africa, Asia, and South America. About 700 million people, in more than 70 countries, live where the disease is common. In tropical countries, schistosomiasis causes a great economic problem. Schistosomiasis is listed as a neglected tropical disease.
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