THE Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) received reports of an increasing number of Schistosomiasis cases in the Kavango West Region, with a total of 312 confirmed cases.
Schistosomiasis is an infectious acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic flatworms, which are transmitted when individuals come into contact with water contaminated with snails that carry the worms. Ben Nangombe, the Executive Director (ED) of the health ministry, stated that school going children are among the most affected.
According to statistics, Nangombe shared that 600 million people all over the world are at risk, while 200 million are infected and 20 million of those infected are experiencing severe illness.
“Schistosomiasis is one of the leading causes of severe morbidity in large parts of Africa, Asia and South America. There are two types of Schistosomiasis, namely urinary schistosomiasis caused by S. Haematobium, and Intestinal schistosomiasis caused by S. Mansoni, S. Japonicum, S. Intercalantum, S.mekongi. The types of schistosomiasis isolated in Namibia so far are caused by S. Hematobium and S. Mansoni,” Nangombe said.
He noted that the disease is prominent in the Zambezi, Kavango East, Kavango West and the Omusati regions.
“Schistosomiasis is highly focalized in villages that are near water bodies (e.g. Perennial rivers in Zambezi and Kavango and Calueque canal in Omusati). Therefore, it is not an uncommon occurrence for people to fall ill with Schistosomiasis in Namibia, especially from the above-mentioned regions,” the ED explained.
Disease transmission occurs when an infected individual urinates/defecates in water, shedding eggs that proliferate in an intermediated host (snails). Snails then shed infective forms of the parasite called cercariae, which infects individuals that they come into contact with in the contaminated water through penetration of skin.
Anybody is at risk of contracting Schistosomiasis during routine agriculture, domestic, occupational, and recreational activities, which exposes them to infested water.
Lack of hygiene and certain play habits of school-aged children such as swimming or fishing in infested water make them especially vulnerable to infection.
The symptoms of Schistosomiasis include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, blood in the stool or urine and liver enlargement in advanced cases.