Half of children in Battambang schools were found to have intestinal parasites that could impact their health, according to a recent study. Of 308 students tested, over 50 percent were found to have a parasite, with 58 having multiple parasitic infections.
“Schoolchildren are the most vulnerable population at greatest risk of intestinal parasitic infections-related morbidity, causing poor growth, vitamin deficiencies, iron-deficiency anemia, and poor educational performance,” report author Chia-Kwung Fan said yesterday.
Though such parasites are rarely fatal, he said, studies showed children with multiple parasites could be more susceptible to infections like tuberculosis, and they “may have worse cognitive outcomes than those infected by a single parasite alone”.
The report examined two primary schools in Mong Russey district, with results published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene last week. A total of nine different parasites were detected, with the most common symptoms being headaches, recurrent coughing and abdominal pain.
Children who raised animals at home were almost four times more likely to have a parasitic infection than those who did not, while other key risk factors included eating raw or undercooked meat, eating raw vegetables, drinking untreated water and a lack of personal hygiene.
Huy Rekol, director of the National Centre for Parasitology Entomology and Malaria Control, said health centres routinely provided hygiene education but stressed it also came down to individual responsibility.
Though the report pointed out health centres “lacked diagnostic facilities”, Rekol said “the hospital has the capacity to detect intestinal infection and parasites”.