She has emaciated over the weeks but all she could remember is that it all started with itching on her leg to localized rash. Later it moved to having a burning sensation in her abdomen, feeling nauseated, vomiting, and alternating between diarrhea and constipation.
She has contracted an infection that has led to malaise and fatigue which has caused her to miss school days. Their hope is that she will get better as her mother has been able to attend the deworming exercise in the local community.
This is the story of many others. Hopefully, she will become stronger in few weeks and return to school.
Parasitic worm infections otherwise called Soil-transmitted Helminths (STH) infections refer to a group of parasitic diseases caused by nematode worms and are endemic in tropical and subtropical areas, with the greatest numbers occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Morbidity is related to the number of worms harbored. Light infections usually have little or no symptoms, while heavier infections can cause different symptoms which include intestinal pain (diarrhea and abdominal pain), anemia, general malaise, weakness, and impaired cognitive and physical development.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worm infection in children can cause organ damage which can exacerbate with age, and it can also have less direct effects such as reduced productivity, fatigue and eventually result in lower school attendance.
For people living with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, the case may worsen.
Parasitic infections are transmitted to humans via fecally contaminated soil i.e., transmission occurs when their eggs are passed into the soil through human feces and are ingested via contaminated water, vegetables or utensils. These eggs hatch in the intestine, develop and the cycle continues.
The STH that are of major concern to humans are the roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura), and the hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale).
These parasites are more common in the poorest and most deprived communities where sanitation is inadequate, and water supplies unsafe thereby giving them the perfect environment to wreak their havoc.
Prevention and Control
Although the effects of soil-transmitted helminthiases include tremendous disability and suffering, they can be controlled and eliminated.
Eradication of these worms (deworming) has long been considered a simple and cheap intervention that brings tremendous health and educational benefits to millions of children worldwide.
World-leading epidemiologists underscore the importance and effectiveness of deworming program approach. As a result, it has been adopted by policymakers and many organizations like the World Health Organization, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Deworm The World.
WHO has recommended mass treatment once a year in regions where worm prevalence is 20% and twice a year in regions where worm prevalence is 50%.
WHO recommended medicines – albendazole (400 mg) and mebendazole (500 mg) – are effective, inexpensive, and easy to administer.
In addition to deworming exercise, health education and good hygiene reduce transmission and reinfection. This can be done by encouraging healthy behaviors. Although it is not always possible in resource-poor settings, the provision of adequate sanitation is also important.
To win the fight against parasitic infections, it is required that all hands are on deck. Government and Non-Governmental Organizations must join hands together in this fight.
EOF knows that periodic deworming is highly beneficial and cost-effective and that is why they routinely conduct this deworming exercise in local communities endemic to parasitic infections in Edo State, Nigeria.
EOF gives deworming medicines to children and mothers to help them against parasitic infections.
Educating the people on the importance of hygiene and health education will help to reduce reinfection and eliminate the parasitic infection in the community, and this is one of the activities done by EOF.
The objective of EOF does not stop at deworming the local communities, it also includes creating awareness to reduce or stop unsanitary habits (excreting in the community rivers, sleeping with no bed nets, and walking barefoot) that is fueling the transmission of the parasite from the human host to the vector and vice versa.
By so doing, we can improve the health of rural communities thereby increasing school attendance for school children and overall productivity in these communities.
The fight may be silent, but it is justified based on human rights, welfare economics, and cost-effectiveness ground. Undoubtedly, the fight will take time and energy but surely, in the end, it will be: parasite lost.
Join us today as we continue this silent fight against parasites by clicking here.
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Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota