2000 local students for disease survey

A schistosomiasis disease survey will be conducted in Saint Lucia beginning the week of April 24, 2017, among 2000 students the Ministry of Health has announced.

Schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever and bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic flatworms called schistosomes.

People may become infected through direct contact with contaminated fresh water where certain types of water snail live, because the snails carry the worm.

The urinary tract or the intestines may be infected causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, or blood in the urine.

National Epidemiologist, Nahum Jn Baptiste, has revealed that the  2000 students who will be involved in the survey are aged between 8 and 11.

He explained that students are being targeted because they will give a much better sense of recent transmission of the disease, rather than older persons.

According to Jn Baptiste, because schistosomiasis can remain in an individual for many years, if a high prevalence is discovered in older persons it would not reveal recent transmission.

Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Merlene Fredericks said that the ministry of health is working in close collaboration with the ministries of education and social transformation as well as the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO, in conducting the survey later this month.

It was explained that the objective of the survey is twofold – determining whether there have been recent transmissions of schistosomiasis so that local authorities can determine the affected areas and move to eliminate the disease, and hopefully getting Saint Lucia certified by PAHO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) as being free of the ailment.

Previously, bilharzia was very rampant locally with up to a sixty percent prevalence in some communities in the past.

But the disease was reported eliminated from Saint Lucia around 1985.

However statistics indicate that over the past ten years 37 cases of bilharzia have been recorded in Saint Lucia, including one involving a school child.

The National Epidemiologist explained that even if  disease has been eliminated, there must be constant vigilance to prevent a resurgence.

The ministry of health has appealed to members of the public in general and parents in particular to cooperate with the bilharzia survey.