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Prevention & Control

Prevention

No vaccine is available.

The best way to prevent schistosomiasis is to take the following steps if you are visiting or live in an area where schistosomiasis is transmitted:

  • Avoid swimming or wading in freshwater when you are in countries in which schistosomiasis occurs. Swimming in the ocean and in chlorinated swimming pools is safe.
  • Drink safe water. Although schistosomiasis is not transmitted by swallowing contaminated water, if your mouth or lips come in contact with water containing the parasites, you could become infected. Because water coming directly from canals, lakes, rivers, streams, or springs may be contaminated with a variety of infectious organisms, you should either bring your water to a rolling boil for 1 minute or filter water before drinking it. Bring your water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute will kill any harmful parasites, bacteria, or viruses present. Iodine treatment alone WILL NOT GUARANTEE that water is safe and free of all parasites.
  • Water used for bathing should be brought to a rolling boil for 1 minute to kill any cercariae, and then cooled before bathing to avoid scalding. Water held in a storage tank for at least 1 - 2 days should be safe for bathing.
  • Vigorous towel drying after an accidental, very brief water exposure may help to prevent the Schistosoma parasite from penetrating the skin. However, do not rely on vigorous towel drying alone to prevent schistosomiasis.

Those who have had contact with potentially contaminated water overseas should see their health care provider after returning from travel to discuss testing.

More on: Schistosomiasis in Travelers

Control

In countries where schistosomiasis causes significant disease, control efforts usually focus on:

  1. reducing the number of infections in people and/or
  2. eliminating the snails that are required to maintain the parasite’s life cycle.

For all species that cause schistosomiasis, improved sanitation could reduce or eliminate transmission of this disease. In some areas with lower transmission levels, elimination of schistosomiasis is considered a "winnable battle" by public health officials.

Control measures can include mass drug treatment of entire communities and targeted treatment of school-age children. Some of the problems with control of schistosomiasis include:

  1. Chemicals used to eliminate snails in freshwater sources may harm other species of animals in the water and, if treatment is not sustained, the snails may return to those sites afterwards.
  2. For certain species of the parasite, such as S. japonicum, animals such as cows or water buffalo can also be infected. Runoff from pastures (if the cows are infected) can contaminate freshwater sources.
 
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  • Page last reviewed: November 7, 2012
  • Page last updated: November 7, 2012
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