Got worms? Not if you use a Biosand filter! Actually, it’s much more complicated than that. There are hundreds of different types of parasites that attack people, even in first world countries. Some of them have larvae that burrow in through the skin on your foot when you’re wading in contaminated water. Others are deposited under your flesh by certain types of flies. The most common types in Haiti are water borne though. These are worms that are typically transmitted to the human host through drinking water. They’re really disgusting, and children are absolutely full of them in most of the areas we work in. Intestinal parasites can be tiny, or they can reach up to 30 feet long – almost the whole length of the human intestine – in the case of tapeworms.
The Biosand filter removes 100% of parasite larvae in drinking water. A family that consistently uses the Biosand filter cannot be infected with worms via drinking water. (There are other, less common ways to contract parasites – eating with unwashed hands, for example.) If a family is no longer at risk for contracting worms, it’s still possible that they will harbor the mature parasites in their bodies for months or years after they are no longer consuming new larvae.
I got excited a few months ago when I read on International Action’s website that they were seeking organizations to help them distribute Albendazole as part of their deworming efforts. As it turns out, there is a very simple way for us to fit deworming into our program. We follow up with each filter three times after we install it – one month, three months, and one year after making the installation. We offer Albendazole to families on the filter’s one-month follow up to families that are using their filter daily. So far, the project has been quite popular and because of that, our workers are happy as well. They like to be able to show up for a follow up visit with a surprise gift. The majority of recipients have unpleasant first-hand experience with worms and realize what a gift the deworming pills are.
This has turned out to be a great little improvement to our program thanks to the connection we made with International Action.
I highly recommend the book “Parasite Rex” which I read this summer. It’s a disgusting and morbidly fascinating look at the world of parasites. I had NO IDEA how horrible they are! I think you all should thank me in the comments for NOT posting the pictures I have of parasites commonly found in Haiti!