Sunday, 7 February 2016

Just Me and my Friend(s) Bil’

Warning: Some readers might find some of this post uncomfortable, if not disgusting. The following is not for those with a weak stomach or who do not like creepy crawlies.

I’m officially on the back half off my contract here in Uganda. While this is exciting, it’s additionally great that on my mid-term evaluation I was able to write under the “How are you feeling?” heading that This is the first month that I’ve had no physical health issues! The parasites have left my system! 

Well, ha-ha-ha the joke’s on me. It turns out they haven’t, and it also turns out they’re back in far greater numbers.

In November I recounted in great detail (with some over dramatization for comedic effect) my experience with Andy, my amoeba. In that case the discomfort was far more of a concern than the living organism inside me… and also because I was able to catch it fairly early. Since Andy and I parted ways I’ve periodically wondered if he had, in fact, actually left. But overall, I haven't really give him that much thought.

Before I left for Ghana*, when I learned of all the things that I could potentially contract, there was one parasite in particular that concerned me. This fear was only intensified after taking a course on waterborne illness last year – a course that dealt, in far too great of detail, on this same parasite. And that my faithful readers, is a little thing called Schistosomiasis, or Bilharzia, as it is more commonly known.

As it turns out, facing my water/drowning fears weren’t the only ones I was facing in my recent rafting adventure – for the Nile is riddled with these little guys, just waiting to cling to us unsuspecting pseudo-adrenaline junkies. That’s right – I have Bilharzia**. I can feel them swimming around in my abdomen, chewing away at my innards. And the scariest part of all of this is that I never would have suspected a thing, because I’ve shown zero symptoms***. My flat mate, however, showed every single one. He was a textbook case of Bilharzia. …Oh! Except for the fact that he didn’t actually have it. 

A sign posted at the Source of the Nile... probably should have paid better attention to this! 
I’m making light of this, slightly, because I’m honestly trying to keep calm about it. You see, while it is easily treatable when caught early enough, if it’s left ongoing, it can do some serious damage. So, the fact that it’s been fairly undetectable – looking back now, I can see some things that I probably should have clued into – it's quite disconcerting. Terrifying, even. Also, the handful of drugs I just threw back are also making me quite nauseous.

The simplest way to describe Schistosomiasis is a worm****, that enters through ones skin via tiny, microscopic snails. It’s found predominately in freshwater sources and is considered to be one of the worst water-borne diseasesSounds fun, eh? But, then, those little friggers lay eggs in you, and when they hatch, well, that’s when the party really gets started… which is exactly the point I am at now! 

The lifecycle of Schistosomiasis
Image Source: CDC
But the more serious description of Schistosomiasis is “a disease caused by parasitic flatworms […] and are released from infected freshwater snails.” It is found most often on the African continent, although cases have been recorded all over the world… including CANADA!

It pretty much tells you what's up...
Image Source: Wikipedia
Anyway, there are two forms of this parasite – acute and chronic. Acute Schistosomiasis (which I have) is a very short-term form of the parasitic infection. If treated early enough, it can be dissolved in a day or so. Chronic Schistosomiasis, on the other hand, is far more serious – and why I am frightened of it. Without treatment, the parasites can cause abdominal pain, enlarged liver, and even an increased risk of bladder cancer, to name a few. In women, it can even cause infertility, menstrual disorders and a slew of other “fun” things. In children, the untreated parasite can lead to stunting and even “a reduced ability to learn.” Oh, also, it can cause death… in extreme cases, for all, not just children.

But before I end this post, let me just point out the irony in this present situation. Aaron SWAM in the Nile… multiple times… throughout that trip. And me, you ask? Oh, well I was in the water for about 5 minutes during the emergency procedures exercise, and then maybe 20 minutes after we got dumped out of the raft during the final rapid. 

Possibly the moment Bil and I became acquainted.
Photo Credit: Nalubale Rafting
I’ve read several articles and blurbs about the presence of Bilharzia in Jinja, and from what I understand it’s fairly uncommon for a rafting tourist to catch, because the time in the water is limited. But, as per my usual, I beat the odds and get the thing! Go me! But, at least it makes for a good blog post!

-the Orange Canadian

*almost TWO years ago!!
**There's nothing quite as sweet as hearing the nurse say "You have excellent stool!" Only to be followed by something far more sobering, such as "But your urine is full of Bilharzia." Only one of those things is making the "Achievements" category on my CV.
***From the CDC: rash and/or itchy skin, fever, cough, chills, and muscle aches.

****Yes, Mike, you can call me "Lowly" again if you wish. 

1 comment:

  1. please admin help me share this to those who still suffering of this disease. As a sign of gratitude for how my wife was saved from Schistosomiasis, i decided to reach out to those still suffering from this.
    My wife suffered Schistosomiasis in the year 2013 and it was really tough and heartbreaking for me because he was my all and the symptoms were terrible, she always complain of abdominal pain and swelling , and she always have skin itching. we tried various therapies prescribed by our neurologist but none could cure her. I searched for a cure and i saw a testimony by someone who was cured and so many other with similar body problem, and he left the contact of the doctor who had the cure to Schistosomiasis . I never imagined Schistosomiasis . has a natural cure not until i contacted him and he assured me my wife will be fine. I got the herbal medication he recommended and my wife used it and in one months time he was fully okay even up till this moment she is so full of life.Schistosomiasis . has a cure and it is a herbal cure contact the doctor for more info on on how to get the medication. Thanks for reading my story