Risky Trips: You’ll find it in freshwater lakes, ponds and streams of South and Central America, mostly in Brazil, Surinam and Venezuela.
Vital Signs: Swimmer’s itch only sounds harmless. The infection affects about 200 million people living in the tropics every year and can be more than just an annoyance for travelers. Also known as schistosomiasis, it’s caused when microscopic parasites burrow into your skin, growing into egg-producing worms (yuck) that can wreak havoc on your bladder, liver and other internal organs. Sure, it might be tempting to cool down with a quick dip, but since you can’t tell whether a lake is swimming with the schistosoma parasite just by looking at it, don’t even wet your toes. “Wading in infested waters puts you at high risk,” says Adalja. “There is nothing you can do to keep the parasite from going into your body.”. Symptoms kick in two to three weeks after initial contact and include a rash, fever, weight loss, and abdominal pain. The doctor should be able to diagnose you with a simple blood test.
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