DARWIN, Australia, Oct. 11 (UPI) — Doctors in northern Australia say public health officials are not paying enough attention to a parasite that can kill those it infects.
In some remote parts of the Northern Territories, medical experts say as much as one-third of the population is infected with strongyloides, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports. Rick Speare, a professor at James Cook University, suggested racism may be responsible for guidelines with bad information on the parasite and lack of testing, as most of those affected are members of the aboriginal community.
Dr. Wendy Page described the government’s attitude as “don’t look, don’t find.”
The parasite enters the body by burrowing through the skin and can breed indefinitely once it reaches the intestines. While medical textbooks suggest it should be treated even when there are no symptoms, the Northern Territory Health Department handbook, now being revised, says treatment is not needed until symptoms appear.
Djiniyini Gondarra, an elder on Elcho Island, said he was tested for strongyloides only after several hospital stays and called the parasite “a silent killer.” The parasite was later found in two of his relatives.
“What’s wrong with us that this is not being really seen seriously?” he asked.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International