Bilharzia warning to all ex Zims

Note received via email: An ex- Zimbabwean in Guernsey has discovered, over 20 years after leaving Africa, that he has bilharzia, and urges us all to think about having a test, especially if we have unexplained headaches or other health problems.
As he says,
“I had grossly abnormal liver function and loads of headaches over that time. By all accounts I am truly fortunate that it has not left permanent liver damage. Since it has been treated that has pretty well resolved. The treatment Biltricide or praziquantel makes you feel pretty rubbish for a day, but not as bad as it makes the worms feel!
I have tried to broadcast on social media to raise awareness especially amongst the ex Zim population abroad and not sure if the message got out effectively. I am a GP here and my diagnosis was delayed despite asking the question of several colleagues – the point being that medical knowledge is very limited in the ‘developed’ world. This is despite the fact that Schistosomiasis is causing the second largest socioeconomic cost in Sub-Saharan Africa after malaria.”


  • comment-avatar
    David McIntosh 10 years ago

    Please give me your em address so we can correspond on this subject. Thanks.

  • comment-avatar

    Elaborate further on symptoms

  • comment-avatar
    Chiremba 10 years ago

    Key diagnostic factors

    Geographical exposure (common)
    Skin exposure to contaminated freshwater (common)
    Abdominal pain (common)
    Haematuria (common) Blood in urine
    Haematemesis (uncommon) Vomiting blood

    Other diagnostic factors

    school age (4 to 15 years) (common)
    occupational exposure (common)
    rash (common)
    fever (common)
    dysuria (common) painful urination
    hepatosplenomegaly (common) big liver & spleen
    dyspnoea (uncommon) sensation of difficulty breathing
    bloody diarrhoea (uncommon)
    pelvic pain (uncommon)
    infertility or history of ectopic pregnancy (uncommon)
    ascites (uncommon)
    genital ulcers (uncommon)

    Source BMJ Best practice, remember this symptoms may be caused by other medical conditions, Best to see your Doctor for a full work-up

  • comment-avatar

    I would be interested in publishing this as a letter to the editor, but maybe you could let me have some ideas?

    Many thanks,

    I J Larivers

  • comment-avatar

    Utter NoNseNse!!!

  • comment-avatar
    Stan Stuart 10 years ago

    How did the GP in Guernsey get his diagnosis confirmed?

  • comment-avatar
    Bilhazia 10 years ago

    Its true I was taking medicals to go overseas and I tested positive to Bilhazia. I believe it will be advisable to go for tests and act accordingly

  • comment-avatar

    I agree with the author of this post. I am a victim of this Bilharzia as well. I have been in the diaspora for 7 years and have been having stomach pains, pelvic pains etc.

    The doctors here in Australia couldnt find anything until i had to go to a specialist. The Urologist ran some tests and yes tested positive to Bilharzia. So yeh i have been prescribed Praziquantel.

    The Doctors out here have no experience with the epidemics and pandemics that we experience back in our countries as some of them are uncommon out here. So they will not even think along the lines of things they know not of.

    This post will save many people’s lives. It should be posted on all major websites that diasporans read.

  • comment-avatar
    Marianne 10 years ago

    That is so interesting. I am one of a small number of people who ended up with bilharzias in my spinal cord. The critters chewed their way merrily through my cord and resulted in permanent paralysis in my legs. So, as additional, albeit extremely rare symptoms, if you experience excruciating pain in hips and lower extremities or weakness in legs, get tested before the little blighters cause too much damage!

    • comment-avatar
      Paul S Bradshaw 10 years ago

      Have had Bilhartzia twice to my knowledge, have received treatment lived in Rhod/zimbabwe 33yrs in which time I’ve drunk the river water,played & fallen into as well as fishing in it.
      I do have a cough am a non smoker always tired & have done nothing about it until now. ( aged 66 )
      Look Fwd to hearing from you in the near future — PS Bradshaw.

  • comment-avatar
    Leta Marsden-Huggins 10 years ago

    Thank you. It would be more helpful, though, to detailed symptoms.

  • comment-avatar
    Paul Cuthbert 10 years ago

    Had it as a kid. The meds. Are worse then it is. Did a lot of sailing in zim. 7 years sick…. that really makes you feel ill.

  • comment-avatar
    gerry 10 years ago

    That is so interesting. Few years ago (2010)I was rushed into hospital with pneumonia and the first thing my GP asked have I had bilharzia before. I had been tested many times before but proved negative. Blood tests. A few months down the line I was diagnosed with Kidney problems and passing blood in my urine.
    I have been out of the country 29 years now.
    I had blood tests done just this last week after reading this article and have been tested positive. This could be part of my Kidney issues?
    Recommend be tested if you have any symptoms of this nature.

  • comment-avatar
    Michele 10 years ago

    How do you get tested if doctors outside of Africa do not know anything about Bilharzia. What do you ask your doctor? I live in Canada and over the years I have had IBS, gallbladder (removed), headaches and stomach/hip/back pains (DDD) and now for the past 4 yrs have very low iron and just can’t seem to bring levels up. I have been taking B12 shots for over 22 yrs because I have pernicious anemia, did have helicobacter pylori which I was treated for. However all said and done, now reading this makes me wonder if this all related to bilharzia. I have been away from Zimbabwe for over 30+ yrs.

    • comment-avatar

      Hi Michelle

      You ask your doctor to test for Schistosomiases, they should know it. It normally involves a urine and stool test and a flexible systescopy or bladder biopsy to be certain.

      Good luck

    • comment-avatar
      Graham Mason 9 years ago

      Interesting that you have been taking b12 shots. I had treatment for bilharzia about 50 years ago, and a few years later I complained about tiredness but could never find a reason.

      Then about 6 years ago I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia and found that the b12 shots gave me a tremendous boost. Its left me wondering if the bilharzia treatment did not mess up the intrinsic factor in my gut and has left me with pernicious anemia gradually getting worse over the years. Its only recently that science has recognised that the flora of bacteria that we have in our gut effects so much of our health problems.

      Otherwise I have been blessed with good health, but I am happy that I discovered the b12 deficiency. I now self inject because the tests that Australian doctors use tend to tell me I have enough b12 when I know I am feeling deficient.

      I do believe that following a healthy diet with good fibre helps maintain our health. So I try to avoid processed food and follow a diet which promotes a healthy gut.