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|Synonyms||bilharzia, snail fever, Katayama fever|
|11-year-old boy with abdominal fluid and portal hypertension due to schistosomiasis (Agusan del Sur, Philippines)|
|Pronunciation||/, , /|
|Classification and external resources|
Schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever and bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic flatworms called schistosomes. The urinary tract or the intestines may be infected. Signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, or blood in the urine. Those who have been infected a long time may experience liver damage, kidney failure, infertility, or bladder cancer. In children, it may cause poor growth and learning difficulty.
The disease is spread by contact with fresh water contaminated with the parasites. These parasites are released from infected freshwater snails. The disease is especially common among children in developing countries as they are more likely to play in contaminated water. Other high risk groups include farmers, fishermen, and people using unclean water during daily living. It belongs to the group of helminth infections. Diagnosis is by finding eggs of the parasite in a person's urine or stool. It can also be confirmed by finding antibodies against the disease in the blood.
Methods to prevent the disease include improving access to clean water and reducing the number of snails. In areas where the disease is common, the medication praziquantel may be given once a year to the entire group. This is done to decrease the number of people infected and, consequently, the spread of the disease. Praziquantel is also the treatment recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for those who are known to be infected.
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