Schistosomiasis haematobium (also known as bilharzia or blood fluke) is an infection caused by several parasitic worms belonging to the grouping of Schistosomes. Over 200 million people are estimated to be infected worldwide. This parasite occurs mainly in Africa, south of the Sahara desert, but also on the Caribbean islands, China and in northern South America.
Life cycle The
Infection is spread by contaminated urine and feces that carry the eggs, once released into fresh water such as streams and lakes the eggs hatch and the larvae infect snails, fish and humans penetrating the skin of people who, for example, bathe or fish in lakes (a small splash on the skin can be enough). Inside the body, the larva settles in large vessels next to the intestine where it reproduces and lays eggs that spread with the blood circulation to the intestine and bladder as well as to other parts of the body. An adult worm can live for about 3 – 10 years.
Where the larva penetrated the skin in connection to contact with infected water, problems with itching often occur however it is not until the adult worms resides inside the blood vessel and has started to produce eggs that symptoms occur to a larger extent (approx. 1 to 8 weeks after contact with infected fresh water). More common symptoms associated with blood fluke infection is; severe inflammatory reaction in the skin with small red blisters or sores, swollen abdomen, diarrhea/bloody diarrhea, fever, blood in the urine and in some cases also tumor development.
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