Bilharzia (also known as schistosomiasis or snail fever) affects people in 51 endemic countries across Asia, Africa and parts of South America.
Bilharzia is an illness that develops when people come into contact with water contaminated by certain snails that carry disease-causing parasites. These parasites can penetrate through a person’s skin and move through the body.
Infection primarily affects the urinary or intestinal system, causing chronic ill health and, in some cases, death. Poor hygiene and water-based activities (such as swimming and fishing) make school-age children the most vulnerable, with infection responsible for malnutrition, absenteeism and impaired intellectual development.
Children suffering from persistent and severe bilharzia infections are also likely to have chronic and irreversible diseases later in life, such as scarring (fibrosis) of the liver, bladder cancer or kidney failure.
In women, bilharzia can lead lead to female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) which can cause complications in pregnancy and triple the risk of contracting HIV.
Mass drug administration status for school-aged children for bilharzia
People receiving preventive chemotherapy for bilharzia
Since the London Declaration was signed in 2012 and partners committed to defeating neglected tropical diseases, the number of people receiving preventive chemotherapy for bilharzia has increased considerably.