Nearly three dozen Belgian tourists were reported exposed to the parasitic disease, schistosomiasis, while vacationing at the Witrivier (Whiteriver) near the Mimi Moya Eco Lodge, situated in the north of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa, according to experts from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp in a letter to ProMED Mail.

Schistosoma haemotobium egg Image/CDC
Schistosoma haemotobium egg

The vacationers were exposed in late Dec. through early Jan. 2017.

According to the letter:

The symptoms started as early as 21 days after exposure and included fever, abdominal pain, cough, and protracted headache and/or muscle ache in about 80 percent. All were seen at 28 to 35 days after exposure. By then a raised eosinophil count was seen in less than 30 percent. Egg detection in feces and urine were negative, and the schistosome antibody test was positive in only one sample (a measurable antibody test may take several months to develop and will need to be tested at a later date).

However, a PCR test targeting the Dra-1 tandem repeat sequence of the Schistosoma haematobium genome was positive in all serum samples from 5 patients with a raised eosinophil count examined so far. Further analyses are pending.

The officials from the Institute of Tropical Medicine say schistosomiasis was not reported previously from this area and a mollusk survey will be performed.