Low awareness of intestinal schistosomiasis in northern Senegal after 7 years of health education as part of intense control and research activities


Seydou Sow, Katja Polman and Bruno Gryseels, Helminthology Unit, Department of Parasitology, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nationalestraat 155, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium. Tel.: +32 3 2476204; Fax: +32 3 2376731/2161431; E-mail: ssow@itg.be, kpolman@itg.be, bgryseels@itg.be
Amadou Mbaye, Projet ESPOIR, Région Médicale de St Louis, B.P. 394, St Louis, Senegal. Tel.: +221 9614366/9611388; Fax: +211 9611578; E-mail: seydou@excite.com, ambaye@sentoo.sn
Sake J. de Vlas, Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 10 408 7985; Fax: +31 10 408 9449; E-mail: s.devlas@erasmusmc.nl (corresponding author).


We evaluated the awareness of and knowledge about intestinal schistosomiasis in a highly infected rural community of northern Senegal where a variety of health information and education activities had taken place for 7 years as a component of different research and control programmes. As the infection had been introduced only recently, an initial ‘zero’ knowledge can be assumed. Most of the health education activities had been performed with adapted messages through local health and community workers. By a questionnaire, 566 individuals were asked simple questions on symptoms, mode of transmission, the sources of information and health-seeking behaviour. About 86% of the respondents stated that they knew what schistosomiasis was, and 92% that in case of illness they would seek treatment at the health centre. However, only half of the people accurately quoted symptoms associated with intestinal schistosomiasis: diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloody stools. The majority of respondents realized that the disease was somehow linked with water and (lack of) hygiene, but only 44% of respondents reported water contact as the source of infection. Ultimately, only 30% of the respondents gave adequate answers about both symptoms and mode of transmission. We conclude that even intense and long-lasting education efforts for a specific and straightforward problem as schistosomiasis are not enough to have profound impact on the knowledge of rural traditional communities.