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What is bilharzia?

Bilharzia is a disease that is caused by tiny worms that can infect people if they come into contact with contaminated water. Infected fresh-water rivers or lakes are mostly found in the eastern part of South Africa. This includes KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and the eastern parts of the North West. These rivers have snails in them that have small parasites that release larvae into the water. If you walk in the water, swim or drink it these can enter your skin. They travel to your bladder and intestines where they lay eggs.

Symptoms: 2-3 days after you come into contact with the water an itchy rash appears on the skin. This is also called swimmers rash. The rash disappears on its own.

A month or 2 later you may develop a fever, fatigue, chills, abdominal pain, blood in your stool or urine, diarrhea and muscles aches.

Treatment: The only way to treat this disease is with medication called praziquantel. Blood tests will confirm the disease. The treatment is cheap and effective and free at the clinic.

If you suspect you or your baby are sick go to the clinic to get it treated.  It may be nothing, but it is always better to check it out with a nurse or doctor.

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