Fatal ‘snail fever’ threatens coastal town in Cagayan


CAGAYAN: The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday warned residents of the coastal town of Gonzaga against a deadly disease commonly known as “snail fever” which can be acquired through exposure to contaminated water containing infected snails.

DOH officials identified the villages of Tapel, Santa Maria and Magrafil where a number of patients were diagnosed and treated of “schistosomiasis” caused by “schisto parasite.”

DOH’s Center for Health Development is conducting an information drive to mitigate the possible widespread of the disease.

Dr. Remigio Olveda, principal investigator of the International Diseases Research Center-Schistosomiasis Research (IDRC-SR) in the Philippines said “a massive information campaign against the parasitic disease is needed as part of the government’s intervention efforts.”

The “schisto parasite” which was discovered in 1906, became endemic in Gonzaga in 2003 after its first victim was brought to San Lazaro Hospital for treatment.

He said that the disease commonly known as “snail fever” is caused by several species of trematodes belonging to the genus schistoma; snails (Oncomelania quadrati) serve as intermediary agent between hosts.

”Symptoms of infection include mild anemia and malnutrition, abdominal pain, cough and diarrhea, fever and fatigue and the enlargement of both the liver and the spleen,” Olveda said.

Olveda, who is also a BioMed expert, said the discovery of the parasite in Gonzaga led to a massive investigation and it was found out that the same is endemic in Samar, Mindoro, Sorsogon and most of Mindanao.

Olveda said farm animals are likewise infected with the parasite which are spread through their waste.

“We need the full cooperation of the community to contain the parasite as we still have to develop a vaccine for it,” he said.

Citing what Japan did in 1996, Olveda said that the industrialization of affected communities may diminish the population of the parasite.

Cagayan Provincial Health officer, Dr. Marcos Mallillin, said prevention and control efforts have been made in Barangay Tapel.


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