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Zimbabwe's Health Ministry to Intensify Fight Against Bilharzia

Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Portia Manangazira, says her ministry has received medical supplies from the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and other non-profit organisations to fight bilharzia, one of the neglected tropical diseases common in rural areas.

Dr. Manangazira said her ministry will next month embark on a nation-wide massive drug administration programme to fight bilharzia.

She said her ministry will start training medical personnel within the next few days to prepare them for the exercise.

Dr. Manangazira said one of the regions hard-hit by bilharzia is Mashonaland East Province.

Bilharzia is a disease caused by parasitic worms called schistosomes. Approximately 300 million people world-wide are infected by the disease. It is common in the tropics where ponds, streams and irrigation canals harbor bilharzia-transmitting snails.

Parasite larvae develop in snails from which they infect humans, their definitive host, in which they mature and reproduce.Schistosoma parasites can penetrate the skin of persons who are wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in contaminated water.

Within several weeks, worms grow inside the blood vessels of the body and produce eggs. Some of these eggs travel to the bladder or intestines and are passed into the urine or stool.

Bilharzia is found in most lakes, rivers, streams and dams in sub-Saharan Africa.