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September 1940


Author Affiliations


From the Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin State Board of Health.

Arch Derm Syphilol. 1940;42(3):410-418. doi:10.1001/archderm.1940.01490150014003

Since Cort1 showed that a dermatitis contracted from the water on bathing beaches in northern Michigan was caused by the penetration of certain larval trematodes (schistosome cercariae) into the skin, this disease, schistosome dermatitis, has attracted increasing attention, particularly in the lake regions of the North-Central part of the United States, where tourist trade has been affected. Schistosome dermatitis, commonly called "swimmer's itch" or "water rash," has been most extensively investigated in Wisconsin,2 Michigan3 and Manitoba.4 Results and conclusions of these combined investigations which relate to this paper may be summarized briefly as follows:

  1. All or most of the dermatoses directly ascribable to contact with water while bathing in the areas investigated are caused by the penetration of schistosome cercariae into the skin. No other cause for the cases of so-called "swimmer's itch" could be definitely shown. While five or more dermatitis-producing cercariae have been reported in this country three, namely, Cercaria stagnicolae, Cercaria elvae and Cercaria physellae, account for most of the outbreaks.

  2. The causative organisms as well as the disease are widespread in the lake regions of the North-Central states and neighboring Canadian provinces. Not every lake in these areas is troubled, since the cercariae must develop in certain snails before emerging into the water, and the snail hosts are not uniformly distributed. Suitable snail hosts are absent from many lakes.