In October, the Department of Basic Education announced that it would embark on an R18 million campaign to rid school children across the country of parasitic worms such as tapeworms.
In most provinces, school children will receive deworming tablets once a year to clear infections however the department has said that children in high burden KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces will be given the tablets twice a year.
In Tshwane, one-year-old Kelebogile Seemise was recently diagnosed with tapeworms. She is currently on treatment to clear her system of the worms, which can rob children of valuable nutrients. To counteract this, Jubilee District Hospital health workers have given Kelebogile’s mother, Kedibone, with porridge to supplement her diet. According to Kedibone, Kelebogile is already underweight for her age.
A person can develop tapeworms when they ingest food or water contaminated by stool from people or animals with tapeworms, whose eggs are deposited in their hosts’ faecal matter. Once inside, the eggs grow into larvae, which can travel to various parts of the body including the intestines, lungs and liver.
Eating raw meat and poor hygiene can increase the risk or contracting tapeworms, according to the US-based Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.[quote float=”right”]“The best way to prevent intestinal worm infection is to keep your child’s environment clean by provision of water and sanitation,”
The Seemise family live in an old church and although the family has electricity, they lack running water. Kedibone buys borehole water from neighbours at R1 per 25 litres, she told OurHealth. The family of six also depends on social grants for their combined income of about R930 per month.
Kelebogile has also been diagnosed with the skin fungus ringworm, which can be spread through contact with the affected skin of others or with clothes, bedding or hairbrushes used by people with the condition. It is treated with antifungal creams or pills.
“The best way to prevent intestinal worm infection is to keep your child’s environment clean by provision of water and sanitation,” said Ga-Rankuwa doctor Matsontso Mathebula. He added that parents should ensure that children regularly wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before meals. They should also discourage nail biting, which can lead to children ingesting tapeworm eggs.