21 April 2003

Africa: Bilharzia Invades World, 85% Cases Found in Africa

Kampala — OVER 200 million people worldwide are infected by bilharzia, of which, 120 million are symptomatic and 20million have severe debilitating disease, according to a statement by Jim Muhwezi, Minister of Health.

Muhwezi said an estimated 85% of all cases, and most of the severely affected are now concentrated in Africa.

In a statement entitled "National Programme for the Control of Bilharzia and intestinal parasites," Muhwezi said water resources development projects in Africa have been often linked with an increase in the rate of Bilharzia transmission.

The minister noted that sustainable agricultural development in Africa has been linked with an increase in Bilharzia transmission.

The minister noted that sustainable agricultural development in Africa would be hampered if Bilharzia is not brought under control.

"In the 1970s and 1980s, WHO played a leading role in the development of the strategy for the control of Bilharzia. Praziquantel, the drug of choice fr the disease, was developed in collaborative effort between WHO and the private Sector," Muhwezi said.

He said WHO had invested in the evaluation of rapid diagnostic methods and donor agencies to support bilharzia control based on the chemotherapy for reduction of morbidity.

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