Snail fever is eclipsing Africa, affecting some 56 million women and girls, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease, technically known as female genital schistosomiasis (FGS), is caused by a parasite that leaves the snail while in the water, settles in the female body and produces eggs that attack the cervix and uterus. and they could be deadly, The Telegraph reported.
According to the British newspaper, it is in the waters of the Kafue River in Zambia, in southern Africa, where it attacks the invisible enemy. After the parasites leave the snails, they begin a journey in search of a host where they can settle. When buried in human skin, they travel into the bloodstream until they are able to insert eggs into the cervix, eventually clogging the fallopian tubes, which can lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy.
In the most extreme cases, the disease can even lead to death, as it causes injuries that quadruple the risk of contracting HIV, and victims can also develop cervical and bladder cancer.
Although more common in women, snail fever also affects men and causes about 280,000 deaths a year worldwide. At a time when there is no vaccine against the disease, it is now possible to treat female genital schistosomiasis and avoid serious implications. In some parts of Zambia, many adolescents receive annual preventive treatment with praziquantel, which is a form of chemotherapy that kills worms, following WHO recommendations.
Kasika Mkwakti, a nurse from Maramba, a region of Zambia hard hit by snail fever, admitted that the team she works with had never heard of the disease before 2020, so only professionals now of health have begun to do so. to try to detect the disease as soon as possible. “Last month we examined 48 women and one already had cervical cancer,” Mkwakti told The Telegraph.
Eradication is possible
Diagnosing the disease at an early stage is crucial for treatment to be more effective, but most people do not realize that they are ill, given that symptoms can take several years to develop. When they appear, patients end up experiencing swelling in areas of the body where worms settle, fever, diarrhea, blood in the urine, genital and muscle aches.
According to WaterAid, a Zambia-based NGO, 6.4 million people – a third of the country’s total population of 18 million – do not have access to safe drinking water, killing more than 2,000 children each year. under the age of five. This situation makes people look for drinking water in the river, increasing the risk of contracting diseases such as snail fever or cholera.
However, there is hope for the eradication of female genital schistosomiasis. Japan and Tunisia are two countries that have successfully achieved this, while Brazil, Morocco, Egypt and the Caribbean are also making great strides in this direction. According to public health experts, the key to stopping the spread of the disease is to invest in snail control, improve access to clean water, and continue to provide preventive chemotherapy to school-age children.
So far, one of the main obstacles to treatment in Zambia has been the ignorance of the population about snail fever, which often confuses the FGS with a sexually transmitted disease.