Schistosomiasis, commonly known as bilharzia, is an acute and chronic disease caused by a parasitic worm. The WHO attribute most infections through routine activities which expose them to infested water. – World Health Organisation

How bilharzia affects us

One of the main contributing factors where people are especially vulnerable to infection is a lack of hygiene. Activities such as swimming or fishing in infested water also play a large role. In 2014 as many as 258 million people needed preventive treatment.

Also known as snail fever, bilharzia is a parasitic disease caused by several species of parasitic worms –


Schistosomiasis, commonly known as bilharzia

Many of the rivers and streams in KwaZulu-Natal, especially in their middle to lower reaches, are infected with Bilharzia.

In the upper reaches, the water flow is too strong for the fresh water snail that is the intermediate host, to survive.

Where there are tidal influences, such as estuaries, the brackish water prevents the snail survival.

Bilharzia or Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by several species of trematodes (“flukes”), a parasitic worm of the genus Schistosoma. Snails serve as the intermediary agent between mammalian hosts.

Although it has a low mortality rate, schistosomiasis often is a chronic illness that can damage internal organs and, in children, impair growth and cognitive development.

The urinary form of schistosomiasis is associated with increased risks for bladder cancer in adults. Schistosomiasis is the second most socioeconomically devastating parasitic disease after malaria.

The symptoms range from weakness or fatigue to the presence of blood in the last few drops of urine passed.

Some people can also develop a life-threatening systemic allergy (Katayama fever) due to these parasites. This is just a cautionary for those people who are tempted to paddle or swim, on a hot day, in rivers and streams that flow through reserves such as Oribi Gorge.

article source: KZN Wildlife


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