Bilharzia, also known as schistosomiasis, is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic worms. It affects millions of people in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to clean water and sanitation facilities is limited. While bilharzia can be treated, the long-term effects of the disease can be devastating if left untreated.

The primary symptom of bilharzia is an itchy rash or a fever, which may initially seem harmless. However, if the disease progresses without treatment, it can have severe long-term effects on the body. The parasitic worms that cause bilharzia can damage the intestines, liver, bladder, and other organs over time. Chronic infection can lead to complications such as liver and spleen enlargement, bladder cancer, kidney failure, and infertility in both men and women.

One of the most significant long-term effects of bilharzia is its impact on children’s development and cognitive abilities. Chronic infection with the parasites can lead to stunted growth, impaired learning ability, and decreased school performance. This can have a long-lasting impact on a child’s future prospects and opportunities, perpetuating the cycle of poverty in affected communities.

The key to preventing these devastating long-term effects of bilharzia is early detection and treatment. Simple and cost-effective diagnostic tests are available to detect infection in its early stages. Once diagnosed, bilharzia can be treated using medications that kill the parasites. In addition to treating current infections, preventive mass drug administration programs are also essential for reducing the transmission of the disease in endemic areas.

It is crucial for public health authorities and healthcare providers in affected regions to prioritize early detection and treatment of bilharzia. This requires increasing access to diagnostic tests and medications, as well as educating communities about the importance of seeking treatment early and practicing behaviors that can prevent infection.

In addition, improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities is fundamental to preventing bilharzia. The parasites that cause the disease thrive in contaminated water, making it essential to provide communities with safe water sources and proper sanitation infrastructure.

Furthermore, investment in research and development for new diagnostic tools and treatment options is essential for improving the effectiveness of bilharzia control programs. This includes developing vaccines to prevent infection and finding new medications that are more accessible and affordable for affected communities.

In conclusion, the long-term effects of bilharzia can be devastating if left untreated. Early detection and treatment are essential for preventing the progression of the disease and the severe complications it can cause. By prioritizing early detection, treatment, and prevention efforts, we can mitigate the long-term impact of bilharzia on individuals and communities, ultimately improving health and well-being in affected regions.

About the author

Kwame Anane