ABUJA – Dr Paul Agwu, Senior Registrar, Pathology Department, National Hospital Abuja, said on Friday that hygiene could help in the prevention of hookworm.
Agwu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that hookworm had become a major public health problem in the country.
“Those predisposed to hookworms are the poor – those who walk bare foot in an environment where there is poor disposal of sewage and those who also use faeces for manure.
“Areas where there is poor sanitation are a predisposing factor to hookworm infection.
“Basically, hookworm infection is via piercing of your skin that’s why when you walk barefoot you are more predisposed to it.
“The hookworm grows more in loamy and sandy soil. For agriculture, we know that loamy soil is one of the best soils.
“You find out that those involved in farming are even more predisposed to it because most farmers walk bare feet.
“Unlike other types of worm where you find that children are those that have it prevalently, but hookworm you find out that adults have it more.
“Its most common in adult males and then adult female suffer the disease more.
“It is more severe in adult female because of their demand for iron in menstruation and pregnancy unlike what you see in other worms.’’
According to him, hookworm is a parasitic nematode; it is really a public health concern; hookworm is common.
“ About 500 million people are affected with hookworm and most of them are in tropical nations, poor countries of which about 80 million get severe infections.
“Prevention is basically through health education, sanitation is very important; livelihood of people has to improve.
“This idea of indiscriminate sewage disposal has to stop, building of latrines has really helped to prevent it.
“Mass de-worming, we have school de-worming and then community based de-worming.
“Research has shown that community based de-worming has been more effective than even school de-worming,” he added.
Agwu, however, said that some primary health care centres had started community based de-worming adding that Bill and Melinda Gates and Clinton foundations were also supporting community-based de-worming in Nigeria.
According to him, hookworm can be diagnosed on the examination of human faeces under a microscope.
The doctor said the symptoms could be severe and included adnominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhoea.
Agwu said long term chronic hookworm infection could lead to impaired cognitive disability, growth retardation in children, anaemia and malnutrition.
He said that hookworm could also affect an unborn baby if the pregnant woman had heavy infestation of hookworm adding that it could also be passed to the babies through breast milk.
“It can lead to prematurity and low birth weight. That is why you find babies under two months being infected with hookworm,’’ he said. (NAN)