: Monday, June 14, 2004
Snail fever outbreak hits China
China has vowed stronger measures to contain the spread of a potentially lethal parasitic worm carried by freshwater snails that attacks the blood and liver of humans, state media has reported.
The Government hopes research in its fight against the disease, known as shistosomiasis or snail fever, will help identify infection sources and develop new prevention methods, the China Daily reported.
It is believed that more than one million Chinese are infected with the disease, but given the current prevalence of the carrier snail, a total of 65 million Chinese are in danger of being infected, previous reports said.
Last year alone, 843,000 Chinese were infected, most of them living in frequently flooded areas along the Yangtze River, where the carrier snail has an ideal habitat, according to the paper.
By the 1980s, China thought that it had effectively controlled snail fever but a mixture of natural disasters and human error has facilitated its return.
After a massive deluge along the Yangtze six years ago, the disease moved on to large, previously unaffected areas.
The disease has been allowed to spread due to public ignorance and the erosion of China's healthcare system, the report said.
Chronic patients, who account for most of those contracting the disease, can experience high fever, weakness of the limbs and severe stiffness of the joints, the paper said.
According to medical experts, snail fever has infected more than 200 million people worldwide.