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Expert Says Zim Child Deaths Not Linked to Bilharzia Drugs

Three children are said to have died after taking bilharzia and hookworm medication. (AFP PHOTO AHMED OUABA)
A health expert says parents should immediately rush their children to hospital if they react to bilharzia and hookworm drugs being administered under a national programme meant to eradicate these diseases.

The call follows the death of three children who took praziquantel tablets that were administered under a nationwide programme which started a week ago.

Biochemist and immunologist at the University of Zimbabwe, Professor Takafira Duluza, said children will survive if they are taken to hospital early though he cautions that the victims may have died of other ailments.

He said research into the medication being administered shows that it should not lead to fatalities.

“Rarely or none at all has ever happened especially as far as treatment for these worms is concerned. Even if you try to get to a public library and search for praziquantel and its usage since it was formulated, you will see that there have never been any deaths so far,” said Professor Daluza.
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Reacting to the deaths, a Form Six student Brien Chimbunde of Mutimi High School, in Zaka said some students were fainting after taking the medication on empty stomachs.
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The Ministry of Health and Child Care last week embarked on a mass drug administration exercise, hoping to distribute about 11.5 million donated praziquantel tablets to treat 4.3 million children for bilharzia and intestinal worms. The ministry hoped to be able to reach all children aged 1 to 15 in all of Zimbabwe’s 63 districts.

But some parents declined to let their children take the drugs, saying they needed more information about the drug and any possible side effects. They charge that they had received no information about the treatment program, learning about it only when ministry officials began showing up at area schools.