Schistosomiasis or bilharzia is an infection brought about by a parasitic worm which thrives in fresh water in tropical and subtropical countries. This parasite is usually found all over Africa, but also in certain regions of the Caribbean, South America, Asia and Middle East.
An individual does not often have any symptoms when initially infected by schistosomiasis, but the parasite might remain in the body for several years and cause damage to the organs such as the kidneys, bladder and liver.
The infection can be easily managed with a short course of medication; thus, a doctor must be seen if the condition is suspected.
What are the indications?
Many individuals with schistosomiasis do not have any symptoms or do not experience any for several months or even years.
The individual might not notice that he/she has been infected, but some might end up with reddened, itchy bumps on the skin for a few days where the worms burrowed.
After a few weeks, some might develop:
- Fever higher than 38 degrees C
- Reddened, itchy, elevated and blotchy rash
- Abdominal pain
- Joint and muscle pain
- Generalized feeling of being sick
It is important to note that these symptoms are the characteristic indications of the acute form of schistosomiasis that often settles in a few weeks. Treatment is still vital since the parasite might remain in the body and result to lasting issues.
Management of schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis is generally managed with a brief course of medication specifically praziquantel which eliminates the worms.
This medication is highly effective once the worms are slightly grown, thus treatment might be delayed until 8 weeks after being infected or repeated after this time.
Steroid medications are also given to alleviate the symptoms of the acute form or if the symptoms triggered damage to the brain or nervous system.