According to TRAC/Plus – a disease control agency, bilharzia may be found in the Northern and Western Provinces especially Burera, Musanze, Rutsiro (west) and Ruhondo districts. These are areas bordering Lake Kivu.
Schistomiasis worms live and affect human intestines but can be prevented by use of clean water, proper sanitation and use of soaps after visiting latrines, delegates heard.
“If schistomiasis becomes chronic, it can cause cancer”, said Professor Dr Michael Kramer, the Director-General TRAC/Plus.
Lakes which are infested with worms include Burera, Ruhondo, Kivu and Muhazi (eastern), according to Dr Mupfasoni Denise from ACCESS Project.
People around these lakes should be taking preventive measures to contain the prevalence, Dr. Mupfasoni added.
In order to determine the distribution, prevalence and the intensity of these intestinal diseases among Rwandans, TRAC Plus-CIDC in partnership with the ACCESS Project, conducted the mapping and baseline study.
Neglected tropical diseases are groups of parasitic and bacterial infections that negatively impact on 1 billion of the poorest people in the world. Majority of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia and South America.
Among the 5 identified neglected diseases include: schistomiasis, soil transmitted, soil transmitted helminthes, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and human trypanosomiasis (HAT) – which the authorities are targeting.
The 5-year disease control plan developed includes establishing the magnitude of Neglected Tropical Diseases in Rwanda and develops national capacities for their control, and will also ensure proper management of cases.
Preventive measures are to be strengthened, as well as behaviour change communication, surveillance and operational research.
The first-ever deworming campaign in July throughout the whole country treated five million school-aged children, 1.5 million pre-school children and 50,000 expectant mothers given necessary doses.
At least 65 per cent of all Rwandans suffer from intestinal worms, according to research completed in June by the National Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) programme. The worms also remain the most common infections in rural communities with poor hygiene and limited access to clean water.
The next phase of the campaign is scheduled for February 2009. It is important to take anti-worms drugs after every 6 months, Dr Mupfasoni said.
There is approximately 1,5 billion infected persons globally affected by worms that could incapacitate the victim – despite the fact that they are not fatal, experts said.
TRAC/Plus wants measures taken to sensitise local communities against swimming around the pin-pointed lakes as the harbour snails which are the sole vectors of schistomiasis.