Wednesday, February 23

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is a problem in Zambia. According to the CDC, "those at greatest risk are travelers who wade or swim in or bathe with fresh water in areas where poor sanitation and appropriate snail hosts are present." Sometimes the lake looks soooo appealing. Be careful.

Infections, while often mild (bloody urine), can be severe:
"The most common acute syndrome is Katayama fever. Symptoms, which include fever, lack of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, hematuria, weakness, headaches, joint and muscle pain, diarrhea, nausea, and cough, may develop several weeks after exposure. Rarely, the central nervous system can be involved, producing seizures or transverse myelitis as a result of mass lesions of the brain or spinal cord. Chronic infections can cause disease in the liver, intestinal tract, bladder (including bladder cancer), kidneys, or lung."
The CDC recommends "vigorous towel drying after accidental exposure" but claims this is not a completely effective preventive measure.

Some of my friends contracted Schisto, but in the States, local doctors refused to believe they had it, insisting, instead, on testing for other things. Be firm if you have recently visited Zambia and are dealing with a Western doctor; for many, schisto is something they've read about but never seen.

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