Journal of Helminthology

Research Papers

Geographical distribution of cercarial dermatitis in Norway

A. Solenga1 c1 and R. Mehla2

a1 Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Department of Pest Control, PO-Box 4404 Nydalen, NO-0403 Oslo, Norway

a2 Armed Forces Medical Services, Institute of Microbiology, PO-Box 4302 Nydalen, NO-0402 Oslo, Norway


Bird schistosomes can cause a disease called cercarial dermatitis, or swimmer's itch, in humans. The disease occurs when people have direct contact with fresh water or sea water containing the free-swimming cercariae of the flukes. The symptoms are well known, and include intense itching, maculae, papulae, urticariae and, in some cases, local oedema with enlarged lymph nodes and fever. In this study, we present the geographical distribution of freshwater cercarial dermatitis in Norway. The study is based on random reports obtained from both individuals and physicians treating patients with itching skin rash after freshwater bathing. The first case of cercarial dermatitis in Norway was reported in 1980 and was traced to a lake near Trondheim in the central part of Norway. In the following years, an increasing number of cases were reported, especially in southern Norway. However, case reports are distributed almost all over the country, even from lakes in northern Norway. As far as we know, these are the northernmost case reports in Europe. So far, only one fluke species (Trichobilharzia franki) from a single infected snail (Radix auricularia) has been identified in Norway. However, unidentified schistosomatid ocellate cercariae have been found on several occasions in snails collected from six lakes where swimmer's itch is frequently reported. Future studies should be performed to identify the fluke species, as well as the most important snail and bird hosts, in Norwegian lakes.

(Accepted September 05 2010)

(Online publication November 12 2010)


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