Studies on intestinal parasitic infections in school children in Kumasi

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Intestinal helminthic infections are one of the world’s most common infections contributing directly to malnutrition, anaemia and low academic achievement in school children. Data on prevalence and distribution of helminthic infections are however scanty in Ghana. The present study, therefore, sought to determine the prevalence and distribution of helminthic infections among primary school children in Kumasi and also show how certain habits and practices may contribute significantly to levels of infestation. Stool samples from 3970 randomly selected primary school children were examined using the formol-ether concentration technique. Factual information on each child was also obtained using pretested questionnaires. The survey showed that intestinal helminth infection is prevalent (38.7%) among the school children with Ascariasis being the highest in prevalence (16.1%) followed by Hookworm infection and trichuriasis. Ascariasis was also of highest prevalence in schools in the southwestern, northwestern and northeastern parts of Kumasi whilst hookworm infection was highest in the southeastern part of Kumasi. Generally, children from public schools showed higher prevalence than their counterparts from private schools, however, no significant differences (P 0.05) were recorded with respect to prevalence by age and sex. Children who did not usually wash their hands before meals, after play and after defaecation, those who do not use dewormers and those who regularly eat Street foods showed higher levels of infection and were also more exposed to multiple worm infestations. A combination of hand washing and regular use of dewormers significantly affected levels of worm infestation. The implications of these observations are discussed. This situation calls for increased health education activities in schools and the need for periodic deworming.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the Degree of Master of Philosophy in Biological Sciences (Medical Parasitology), 1998