I was looking at the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) annual calendar of health events happening in the country. Much to my surprise, since I never heard of it during my three decades in microbiology, is the recognition of “Schistosomiasis awareness month” each July.

Schistosoma japonicum/CDC
Schistosoma japonicum/CDC

I found this refreshing that an infectious parasitic disease with such an enormous magnitude in many areas of the developing world was getting the necessary exposure. Schistosomiasis, although it affects 240 million people worldwide (primarily in Africa), is considered one of the most common “neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)”.

In the Philippines, Schistosoma japonicum is the species that infects farmers, fishermen and their families throughout the archipelago. Read more about this and other parasites at my online study guide, Parasitology 101 (It is a work in progress).

The DOH reports the magnitude of the problem that still affects the country–“There are at present 2,222 S. japonicum endemic barangays (villages), 189 municipalities in 28 provinces in the 11 regions in the Philippines. The following specific areas are endemic:

Region 2 Cagayan, Region 4 Mindoro Oriental, Region 5 Sorsogon, Region 6 Negros Occidental, Region 7 Bohol, Region 8 North Leyte (Tacloban City), North Samar, East Samar (Borongan), West Samar (Calbayog, Catbalogan), Region 9 Zamboanga Sibugay,  Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Region 10 Bukidnon (Malaybalay City, Valencia City), Lanao norte,  Misamis Occidental(Osamis, Tangub, Oroquieta), Region 11 Davao del Norte (Panabo, Tagum), Davao del Sur (Davao City, Digos), Davao Oriental, Compostella Valley, Region 12 North Cotobato, South Cotobato (Koronadal City), Sultan Kudarat, Region 13 CARAGA Agusan del Norte (Butuan City), Agusan del Sur (San Francisco, Bayugan), Surigao del Norte (Surigao City), Surigao del Sur (Bislig, Tandag City) and ARMM Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur.

Health officials say you can go to the nearest Health center for stool examination and treatment for schistosomiasis. Concerning stopping the spread of schistosomiasis, the DOH says “It is only you or the people themselves who can stop the transmission of the disease.”