What is Schistosomiasis?

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by a type of parasitic flatworm called Schistosomes. This disease is also called snail fever because it is spread when people come in contact with water that has been contaminated by freshwater snails. The freshwater snails are what release the parasites into the water. This disease is the third most devastating disease in the world. The most deadly disease is malaria.  People who have been infected for a long time can have  liver damage, kidney failure, infertility, or bladder cancer and children can experience poor growth or difficulty learning.

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Schistosomiasis Life Cycle” By CDC DPDx Under  public domain

Who Does it Effect?

This disease mostly effects people in third world countries such as Africa, South America, The Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia.  It especially effects children in these countries because they are often playing in the contaminated water and then get infected. It also really commonly effects farmers and fishermen because they come in contact with freshwater for their jobs everyday which greatly increases their chances of getting infected.  Also women in these countries using the freshwater for daily chores such as washing clothes or bathing in this contaminated water can get infected easily. It is estimated that more than 207 million people, 85% of which live in Africa, are infected with schistosomiasis. Worldwide around 200,000 deaths are caused by  schistosomiasis every year.

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“Schistosomiasis Haematobia” By  Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. Under public domain


There are two drugs available that are able to treat schistosomiasis, they are praziquantel and oxamniquine for the treatment of schistosomiasis. Praziquantel’s is the better option because it is a lower cost per treatment and and oxaminiquine’s lacks efficacy against the urogenital form of the disease. The purpose of this drug is to cure the disease and to prevent it from transitioning from the acute form to the chronic form of the disease. Even if someone has the chronic form they should still get treated because  the adult parasite can live in the host for years. A single dose of the drug every year is enough to cure the disease.

There are special guidelines for community treatment based on the number of children that have contracted the disease. When a village reports more than 50 percent of children have blood in their urine, everyone in the village receives treatment. When only 20 to 50 percent of children have bloody urine, just the school-age children are treated and when fewer than 20 percent of children have symptoms, there is no mass treatment.

Below is a map of where Schistosomiasis is most commonly found around the world.

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“Water Quality” By Ionut Cojocaru Under  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported


The best way to avoid the spread of this deadly disease is to avoid wading or swimming in fresh water around the countries where it is most prevelent. Also boiling all drinking water and bathing water before use can kill the parasites and make the water safe to use.

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“But snail fever (schistosomiasis) can be prevented” By National Library of Medicine – History of Medicine Under  Flickr

What Can We Do?

The best way for us to help is by raising awareness about this disease and by educating people on how to treat it and prevent it. Most people have heard of Malaria around the world, even in countries where it is not commonly found but very few people outside of the effected countries have heard of Schistosomiasis even though it is the third most deadly disease in the world. Bringing awareness to it would help a lot.

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“Snail Fever” By National Library of Medicine – History of Medicine Under  Flickr

2 thoughts on “Schistosomiasis

  1. Very informative post! I wonder if educating people about the disease is enough. What options do people have for drinking/bathing water? Do you know what measures are being taken by organizations or government to address the clean water supply problem?


    1. For drinking and bathing just boiling the water is enough to make it safe to use. As for organizations and help from the government, I could only find private organizations that were dedicated to providing these countries with clean water. I did not find anything about the government helping.


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