What is Schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis is a major water borne parasitic disease associated with poverty in most rural settings. Occuring mainly in developing nations, the disease is widespread and occurs in all 170 administrative districts of Ghana. Prevalence rates are high, over 90% in many endemic communities. It is estimated that about 7 million school-age children in Ghana are at risk of infection and that there are around 15 million infections annually in the country.
The majority of these infections come from around the Volta Basin, but that is certainly not the only place that it occurs, with some cases in the water front areas around the capital city being of note.
The Life Cylce of the parasite that causes Schistosomiasis is similar to that of Malaria, but much easier to break, in theory. The Malaria Plasmodium 'develop between two hosts', humans and mosquitoes. In the same way the Schistomoes (the name for the adult worms) develop between humans and snails. However, the infection is much more easily contracted as the cercaria (a stage in the life of the Shistosome) can penetrate skin directly through contact - or be ingested also.
This image, Copyright: The Carter Center/Al Granberg provides a very clear description of the life cycle.
Schistosomiasis infected people suffer many health conditions including excretion of blood in urine and stool, kidney malfunction, bladder cancer and diseases of the liver and spleen. Recent research in Ghana and elsewhere has also revealed high occurrence of Genital Schistosomiasis with serious implications for reproductive health such as : infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, erectile dysfunction, and increased risk for acquiring sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
Schistosomiasis disease burden reduces productivity in adults and compromises child learning abilities (cognitive developments).