24 October 2016

Liberia: Snail Fever Hits Gbarpolu County - 327 Affected By Disease

Gbarpolu County — Two cases of Schistosmiasis, a disease also known as snail fever, has been confirmed at the Chief Jallah Lone Medical Hospital in Bopolu City, Gbarpolu County.

The cases were discovered in Forkpa Town, Bokomu District before being confirmed at the major hospital in the county. Over seven communities are affected in Bokomu District.

Gbarpolu County Health Team medical diagnosis done on several people in Bokomu health district show 327 individuals were examined for Schistosomiasis in three towns.

County Health Officer (CHO), Dr. Anthony Tucker, said snail fever was first diagnosed in September this year.

The CHO said a surveillance team was sent investigate the situation and reported that there were lots of people presenting the symptoms.

"We went on an outreach in that area and we were able to diagnosed 327 schistose and immediately administered a single dose of Praziquantel tablet to reduce the severity of the symptom," Dr. Tucker said.

The disease symptoms are painful or bloody urination, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea. While anemia or low blood, malnutrition and learning disabilities can also be developed in children with repeated cases of the infection.

The parasite schistosoma is transmitted by contact with contaminated fresh water occupied by snails carrying the parasite.

Many kids who swim, bath and fish in contaminated water in the area are at risk of contracting the disease.

Some of these parasites are trapped in the body and cause damage to internal organs, which can contribute to loss of life.

The US Center for Disease Control labeled the disease as the most deadly Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), which has killed more than 200,000 people each year in Africa.

In Gbarpolu County, the disease has become a health concern in communities and affected families are asking for government and partners support to keep out the tropical disease in their areas.

According to locals, the lack of basic sanitation facilities and save drinking water is making the disease to thrive in the region.

Others say the lacks of regular awareness about some preventable diseases is a major cause of the snail fever and other diseases in the area.

Other are asking for safe drinking water and supports to enable them build their own latrines.

Morris Cole, a resident of Forkpa Town said the situation is beyond their control.

"Once we do not have good water, our children will continue to suffered because they are always bathing in the river and other water that are not running," Cole said.

"The only way this worm business can stop is for government to help us now."

There's only one public clinic in the district and due to its location, locals of Forkpa, Gbarng-gborke, Belle Yallah, Sakkpadeh, Gungbeta and Torlekala Towns have to rely on a private clinic in the area.

Alice David, a resident of Gbarnga-gborke Town said: "This clinic here charges us more money to give tablets to our children. As a result we are suffering here, so we need government to help us with clinic."

Another mother, Mary Flomo of Torlekalah Town said: "Some time when you go to the clinic and you don't have money, the nurses cannot take care of your child."

"My son was short of blood, according to the clinic people, because there was no money, so he died on the road when we try carrying him on a bike to the hospital."

A nurse, Harris Mulbah of the privately run Sis. D. Medical Clinic in Gbarnga-gborke Town, said providing subsidy to the clinic would enable it deliver adequate and affordable health services. Mulbah said when the Snail fever was discovered; they immediately contacted the county health team that made some intervention by treating infected children.

"Those that have it (snail fever) were many; they were not able to treat everybody," he said, adding that people are still going to the clinic with same problem.

"We don't have some of the medicine here, so we can give them antibiotic and referred them."

The lack of ambulance to refer patients with complicated cases is another challenge in the area and Mulbah says "Some death has occurred while families endeavored to carry their relatives to the only referral hospital on motor bikes."

Government's Intervention

The County Surveillance Officer (CSO) of Gbarpolu, Augustus Alfred said partners of the health team have provided Praziquantel medicine, which is the primary type of treatment for Schistosomasis.

Alfred said upon the availability of funds, the county health team would do a mass distribution of drugs by giving a single dose of praziquante to people that presenting symptoms of the parasite to reduce the severity of the subsequent re-infection.

"We are currently doing health education campaign about the risks of getting infected by bathing and fishing in fresh running water as well as stagnant water," Alfred said.

Editor's Note: This story was written in collaboration with Local Voices Liberia media network. Local Voices is a network of Liberian journalists from across the 15 counties working to lift stories that are underreported by using its platform www.localvoicesliberia.com

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