What is schistosomiasis?

Schistosomiasis or bilharzia is defined as an infection brought about by a parasitic worm that thrives in fresh water in tropical and sub-tropical areas.

During an initial infection, there are no symptoms, but the parasite might stay within the body for several years and trigger impairment to the organs particularly the kidneys, bladder and liver. An infection is usually managed with a brief course of medications.

What are the signs?

Many individuals with schistosomiasis do not have any symptoms or do not have any for several months or even years.

Some are not even aware that they are infected, but some individuals occasionally develop small, itchy, reddened bumps on the skin for a few days where the worms burrowed.


These are indications of acute schistosomiasis that often settles within a few weeks.

After a few weeks, some develop the following:

  • Cough
  • Fever above 38 degrees C
  • Itchy, blotchy, reddened and elevated rash
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Generalized feeling of being sick
  • Abdominal pain

These are indications of acute schistosomiasis that often settles within a few weeks. Remember that treatment is vital since the parasite remains in the body and result to lasting issues.

Management of schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis can be managed effectively with a brief course of praziquantel which is a drug that eliminates the worms.

This drug is highly effective once the worms have grown a bit, thus treatment is usually delayed until 8 weeks after being infected or repeated at this period.

Steroids might also be given to alleviate the symptoms of acute schistosomiasis or symptoms due to damage to the brain or the nervous system.


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