Tuesday, November 19, 2019

African crawling cooties . . . nasty little things!


Westerners who visit Africa, particularly the off-the-beaten-track parts of Africa, often have little or no idea of the dangers involved.  Some are obvious:  war, terrorism, predatory animals, etc.  Others, such as disease, organisms, etc. are less so - but they're no less dangerous.  I was reminded of one such organism by this news report.

A British man nearly died after a parasite crawled up his penis and started laying eggs after he went for a swim in Lake Malawi in southeast Africa during a "holiday of a lifetime" with pals.

. . .

A week before Christmas he was diagnosed with schistosomiasis, an infection that's caused by a parasitic worm that lives in fresh water in tropical regions. It's most commonly found throughout Africa.

Once in the body, the worms move through the blood to areas such as the liver and bowel. After a few weeks, they start to lay eggs.

Some eggs remain inside the body and are attacked by the immune system. If it's left untreated it could have severe consequences.

There's more at the link.

I've had bilharzia.  It's no fun at all.  You can get it almost anywhere in Africa, and many of us who were born and raised there have endured its attentions.  I've also had delightful encounters with things like Lassa fever (which is, in essence, an entry-level form of Ebola), malaria and a few other nasties, all of which, I'm glad to say, were cured before they finished me off.

That had amusing consequences when I moved to this country.  I'd been a blood donor in South Africa, where (since so many have had these diseases and others) they'll accept almost anyone's blood and screen for whatever they need to keep out.  The USA is a bit more picky.  When I showed them my ten-gallon card, or whatever the high-number ID is, they got very excited;  but when I told them I was from Africa, it was as if I was suddenly a walking, talking plague vector.  Their attitude can be summed up as "AAAAAHHH!  African blood cooties!"  I was summarily informed that I could never donate blood in the USA, because I had antibodies in my blood that were powerful enough to spread infections to recipients without them, even though they wouldn't cause any difficulty in Africa (where almost everybody has them, in the trickier parts of the continent).

Moral of the story (and this is only partly in jest):  if you go swimming in a bilharzia-infected stream, wear a condom!




Peter

11 comments:

James Logan said...

I had to wait 3 years in the US before being allowed to donate. I'd never had Lassa fever though.

Ryoushin said...

Spent my high school years in Belgium where my dad's duty station was. Can't give blood due to mad cow disease outbreak in the 80's.

Sam L. said...

What about ears and noses? And eyes?

I used to donate, until I was put on Finasteride, which is FIRST on the Red Cross's list for DO NOT DONATE.

Philip Sells said...

Ryoushin, your situation and mine are similar, I suppose. I wanted to give blood after 9/11, but due to my having lived in Germany in the early 1990s, I couldn't, having been, like you, disqualified due to supposed BSE potential.

All kinds of things in Africa. It's suddenly strange to me that we don't have more such stuff in N. America than we in fact do. I thought Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel interesting, if a little limited. I don't think I have my copy any more, else I might get it out to see if he addressed the question.

Bob said...

One of ex-president Jimmy Carter's best achievements has been his efforts to eradicate Guinea Worm Disease from Africa.

Robin Datta said...

There is indeed a parasitic fish of the catfish family called Candiru found in South America. Schistosomiasis (including Bilharzia) is found in Africa, Asia and South America. It does have a rather complicated life cycle, but the stage that infects humans is very minute and enters by penetrating intact skin.

Robin Datta said...

We climbed down from the trees in Africa before assuming a bipedal gait: all our internal and external companions from the stage of primate (monkey), Hominid (ape - tailless) and Hominin (our direct ancestors after the split from chimps), stayed with us in jungle and grassland in Africa. When we learned to control our environment with clothing and housing, by migrating out of Africa we left behind some of those companions. Nevertheless, while grow(l)ing up in Pakistan+Bangladesh, I had malaria only five times.

bart simpsonson said...

And America is blindly allowing people from these areas sanctuary here after illegally entering our country, with ZERO concerns for the health issues that may be created by their presence. It is almost as if the powers that be want to foment mass extinction to the general populace in order to reduce populations, both here in the US and the world as well.

Borepatch said...

I'm in the same boat as Ryoushin - 2 gallon pin but lived in Blighty in the '90s during Mad Cow times.

selsey.steve said...

I came to Britain after having grown up and living in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) for 20 years and then in the Far East for 28 years. In NR I had malaria 3 times, blackwater fever once (that's when the plasmodium falciparum parasite caused your red blood cells to rupture in your blood stream), the name comes from the very dark urine associated with the disease which is often fatal. In Hong Kong the Red Cross Blood Donation program welcomed my blood, I'm O-Negative, the universal donor. Here in Britain the NHS won't touch my blood because of what they told me was 'malarial detritus' in my blood. Malarial detritus? Seriously? After 28 or more years?

OvergrownHobbit said...

Bio-diversity... **shudders** You can have it!