Snail Fever (Schistosomiasis) Strikes China

BEIJING (September 10, 1998) -- According to the Chinese Red Cross, there are outbreaks of a number of diseases including snail fever in the vast flooded area along the Yangtze River. Nearly 10,000 medical teams are giving out water purification tablets and treating people who have had contact with polluted flood water and so are at risk for getting snail fever, or schistosomiasis.

Snail fever, or schistosomiasis, is a parasitic disease of the liver, gastrointestinal tract and bladder. The disease is caused by a specific worm which enters a person's body from infested polluted water.

There are three main species of these worms (flukes)-- Schistosoma haematobium, S. japonicum, and S. mansoni -- which cause disease in humans. The larval (young) forms of the parasitic worm live in freshwater snails. Hence, the name "snail fever."

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