Travel Health Advice - Schistosomiasis (bilharzia)
What is it? Bilharzhia is a condition caused by parasitic worms with wide-ranging symptoms depending on which organ is affected. A rash or itchy skin can develop days after infection, with fever, chills, cough, and muscle ache starting as much as two months later. How is it transmitted? Via larval forms of parasitic blood flukes which develop in fresh water snails. These larvae swim in water and penetrate human skin.Where is it present? Many sub-Saharan African countries, the Arabian peninsula, Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela. Other species are found in China, Indonesia, and Philippines. Level of risk? High, if wading or swimming in fresh water in an endemic area. What can I do to prevent getting it? Avoid swimming, washing, drinking or doing laundry in fresh water. Dry skin vigorously after accidental exposure. Treatment? Praziquantel is the drug of choice; painless, quick and effective.