Schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, is a parasitic disease caused by trematode flatworms of the genus Schistosoma. Larval forms of the parasites, which are released by freshwater snails, penetrate the skin of people in the water.
The disease is spread by contact with fresh water contaminated with the parasites. These parasites are released from infected freshwater snails.Signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, or blood in the urine. In those who have been infected a long time, liver damage, kidney failure, infertility, or bladder cancer may occur. In children, it may cause poor growth and learning difficulty.
Safe and effective medication (praziquantal)is available for treatment of both urinary and intestinal schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis remains a public health problem in several parts of the world, particularly in Africa where 92% of all the people requiring preventive chemotherapy for schistosomiasis live.