PAHO funding parasite eradication programme

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The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is funding the government’s thrust to eradicate the parasitic flatworm called schistosome that can cause stomach cancer.
The Centre for Disease Control CDC said schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or snail fever is a disease caused by parasitic worms and there are more than 200 million people infected worldwide. There were two suspected cases in 2016.
PAHO‘s Country Programme specialist for Antigua and Barbuda, Reynold Hewitt told OBSERVER media yesterday that testing has been ongoing throughout the world, and St. Lucia is awaiting results from recent testing.
Hewitt said the Ministry of Health and the Environment will be testing the blood, urine and stool samples of all the grade three to six students to determine if Antigua and Barbuda has already eradicated the schistosomiasis.
“Antigua was one of the first countries in 1907 to have identified an Antiguan with the disease. Since then there has not been an official survey done in Antigua to determine if the disease is circulating. In 1952, the now [Caribbean Public Health Agency] (CARPHA) collected 353 samples and of those samples 70 percent were positive.,” Hewitt said.
The initiative comes after two cases were suspected back in 2016 – that is, two people may have been exposed to the parasitic worm that was recently discovered in the Potters community.
Parents were told that their children would be tested, with their permission, for the eggs, larva and worms of the parasite.
“This survey will determine the prevalence of the disease in the country, so if it is prevalent we should be able to pick it up because we are going to test a lot of children. Our target is 1,537. School children tend to be susceptible because of their activity; they are going to the ponds, they are going to the river, they come into contact with water barefooted and with their hands or they may touch some animal that is contaminated,” Hewitt said.
He said that a person can also come into contact with the parasitic worm through open wounds on the skin.
Hewitt said this age group was identified especially because of their likeliness of possible exposure. He said the intention is to contain and treat the disease.
The entire programme will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

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