GEORGE NEWS - The Western Cape Government Department of Health will conduct a survey in the Garden Route to determine the prevalence of select soil-transmitted helminths (worms) and bilharzia in schoolgoing learners from Grade 1 to Grade 7.
The survey is taking place from 5 to 8 August, and nationally from 29 July to 6 September.
Nadia Ferreira, spokesperson for the department in the Garden Route and Central Karoo districts, says ten schools will be identified across the Garden Route.
"Stool and urine samples will be taken of 50 learners per school (25 boys and 25 girls) as per consent of caregivers. The samples will all be laboratory tested for worms." Ferreira says the main aim of the survey is to identify areas of high prevalence of infection so that targeted interventions can be done thereafter.
Bilharzia is a disease caused by parasites found in some rivers and dams in South Africa. "The presence of worms in children can have a significant negative impact upon the health of children. Children who are infected with bilharzia or soil-transmitted worms are often tired and irritable and their ability to learn is affected, growth is slowed down and malnutrition can occur."
The signs of worm infection are loss of appetite and energy, weight loss, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, persistent cough, grinding teeth when child is asleep, itching around anus of where the worm has entered, blood in urine (red urine), painful and frequent urination and blood in the faeces.
Precautions to prevent contracting worms or bilharzia include the following:
• Always use a toilet to defecate and urinate;
• Keep your hands clean all the time;
• Always wash your hands with clean or boiled water before and after toilet use;
• Always wash your hands with clean or boiled water before and after eating;
• Do not eat soil;
• Wash raw vegetables and fruits with clean or boiled water before eating;
• Avoid walking, washing, bathing and swimming in rivers, dams and stagnant water and irrigation systems;
• Keep rivers, dams and irrigation systems clean;
• Clear vegetation to expose snails to sunlight;
• Drain or fill bodies of water which are infested with snails;
• Wear rubber boots and gloves when working in irrigation systems and fields;
• Control stray animals that might spread infected faeces into the rivers, dams and irrigation systems;
• Cook meat properly; and
• Keep your fingernails clean and cut short.
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