The parasitic disease known as urinary bilharzia can lead to the abnormal presence of blood in the urine. This is something to take very seriously. Bilharzia affects around 200 million people worldwide. The worm responsible for the condition is contracted by bathing, washing or working in infected bodies of fresh water where the parasite initially develops in water snails.

After a few weeks, once they have developed to a certain point, the worms leave the snail and swim off in search of a human host. If you happen to be around, they’ll move in on you. They slip under the skin and into the blood vessels of the bladder, where they then reproduce. After a few years the presence of these worms can cause serious lesions of the biliary and urinary tracts and even lead to bladder cancer.

The first signs of infection are skin eruptions and itching. Next comes fever, shivering, coughing and muscle pain. Following this, untreated infections can lead to blood appearing in the urine and stools of those infected.

Three main sources of the disease have been identified in Africa: Lake Tanganyika in the west, Lake Kivu also in the west and Lake Katebe in the more southerly region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. To avoid any risk of infection the rule is simple – don’t bathe or walk in bare feet in fresh water. Particularly in Africa and Asia!

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