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CDC Refugee Program Curbs Intestinal Parasites

Despite treatment, Giardia and Trichuris remain prevalent in overseas refugees

THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program has been largely, but not completely, successful in reducing the prevalence of intestinal parasites in refugees, investigators reported this week at the 54th annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, under way in Washington, D.C.

Researchers, led by the CDC's Stephen J. Swanson, M.D., analyzed the type and number of helminthes infecting 11,856 African and 6,159 Southeast Asian refugees older than age 2 arriving in Minnesota between 1993 and 2004. Beginning in May 1999, the CDC began pre-treating refugees with a single oral dose of albendazole 600 mg before they entered the United States.

Prior to May 1999, 21.5% of refugees had at least one intestinal parasite and 3% had multiple helminthes. Hookworm was the most common, found in 8.7% of refugees. Since the treatment program began, 8.4% of refugees have had intestinal parasites and 0.6% had multiple organisms, Swanson reported. Trichuris is the most common, found in 4.7% of refugees.

Currently, Strongyloides is the most prevalent helminth among Southeast Asian refugees while Schistosoma has been found only in African refugees. Giardia is the most common intestinal pathogen, occurring in 8.3% of treated refugees and 10.7% of untreated refugees.

"Despite treatment, the prevalence of intestinal parasites, particularly Giardia and Trichuris, remains substantial among refugees arriving from Southeast Asia and Africa," the authors write.

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