WHO to provide medical aid for outbreak of snail fever

The World Health Organization (WHO) will provide medical supplies and technical aid to prevent the outbreak of snail fever, which is an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms released by freshwater snails.

In the meeting hall of the National Health Laboratory in Yangon on 21 July, Dr. Stephan Paul Jost, country representative of World Health Organization in Myanmar, and his delegation spoke about snail fever and made a pledge to provide medical aid at a negotiation meeting over its outbreak in the Inle area of Shan and Rakhine states.

The disease is prevalent in contaminated dams, lakes, fields, and creeks, which have freshwater snails infesting the water.

Schistosomiasis or bileharzia, commonly known as snail fever, is an acute and chronic parasitic disease caused by blood flukes (trematode worms) of the genus schistosoma. People get infected when larval forms of the parasite cercariae released by freshwater snails penetrate the skin during contact with infested water. Transmission occurs when people suffering from schistosomiasis contaminate freshwater sources with their excreta containing parasite eggs, which hatch in water.

Symptoms of schistosomiasis include a rash, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, headache, cough and body sores.

Haematuria (blood in urine), fibrosis of the bladder and ureter, and liver and kidney failure are diagnosed in advanced cases.

Detection by the polymerase chain reaction of schistosoma mansoni DNA in human serum and faeces can be made. No vaccine is available yet, but treatment with praziquantel is known to be effective.

As a prevention measure, people need to avoid swimming in lakes or creeks, which are vulnerable to infection. It can be prevented when people live in a hygienic environment, with adequate sanitation. Those engaged in agricultural activities, which expose them to infested water, should wear agricultural gloves and farming footwear, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

According to WHO’s worldwide survey, schistosomiasis occurs in 78 countries. Experts from WHO headquarters, Southeast Asia WHO office and China Centers for Disease Centrol will conduct research over the outbreak of schistosomiasis. The prevention measures will be coordinated with related departments.

The Union Minister for Health and Sports and officials from Health and Sports Ministry and WHO representatives and delegation attended this meeting.

By Nyein Nyein