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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Why was China chosen for the study tour of Schistosomiasis?

Why was China chosen for the study tour of Schistosomiasis?

Schistosomiasis, or "Snail Fever" as the Chinese call it, has affected vast numbers of people in the countryside of China for over 2,000 years. In 1949, an estimated 10½ million perople were infected and 100 million more were at risk.

Today, two thirds of the previously infected people are cured and more than two thirds of the areas affected by schistosomiasis are now free of the disease. In a commune in Kiangsi Province, for example, the actual incidence of the disease has dropped from 50% of the population in 1949 to 0.3% in 1968. In China today, schistosomiasis is no longer a major public health problem.

This is what makes the Chinese experience so potentially valuable to the world-wide effort against schistosomiasis. It was one of the hardest-hit countries and yet they have succeeded in bringing it under control. From my particular point of view, there is special value in the fact that the disease has been defeated largely by environmental action to break the life-cycle of the snail and to prevent the parasite coming into contact with the human body. This is UNEP's special interest. I joined the study tour to China to find out how the Chinese experience could provide guidance for other countries in dealing with this major health and development problem.