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"Schistosomiasis" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 18, Feb. 11, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


In some localities throughout the world (see map at end of book), bodies of fresh water such as lakes, rivers, streams, swamps, ponds, irrigation ditches, and flooded rice fields may harbor the larvae or cercariae (young forms) of various blood-worms or flukes. Human infestation with these flukes is known by the terms schistosomiasis or bilharziasis. The only type found in the Western Hemisphere (Caribbean Islands and South America) is the variety which produces intestinal lesions and dysentery and is known as intestinal bilharziasis. In certain regions of Africa these flukes produce a condition known as urinary bilharziasis, though the intestinal form also is present. Heavy areas of infection are found in Egypt and in some of the oases of the North African desert. In parts of the Far East, notably Japan and China, an intestinal variety is known as oriental bilharziasis. The geographical distribution of these diseases is shown on the map referred to above.

The cercariae or young forms of these flukes are harbored by certain species of fresh-water snails. When the parasites leave the snail host and are discharged into the water, the survival time of the cercariae is less than 48 hours unless another suitable victim is found. These cercariae may enter the body through the unbroken skin of swimmers, bathers, or persons wading in such waters, or through contaminated drinking water that has not been boiled or sufficiently treated with chlorine. If water for bathing is stored in a clean container and is free of snails, it will become entirely safe for use in 48 to 72 hours. This will not insure water satisfactory for drinking purposes.

One should be extremely cautious in wading, bathing, or swimming in fresh-water ponds, streams, lakes, or rivers which have not been examined and found to be safe by Army medical officers or others competent to judge. Salt-water bathing and swimming, except at beaches near the mouths of fresh-water streams or near city sewage outlets are safe and do not constitute health hazards.

*Prepared in the Office of the Surgeon General.


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