Image: Páll Stefánsson

Swimmer’s Itch in Landmannalaugar

 In Nature & Travel, News

According to a news bulletin published on the Environment Agency of Iceland’s website on Wednesday, an unspecified number of cases of swimmer’s itch  (human cercarial dermatitis) have been reported in the geothermal pools in Landmannalaugar, in the highlands of South Iceland.

According to the bulletin, the Agency has consulted with an epidemiologist at the Institute for Experimental Pathology (University of Iceland) in Keldur whose analysis concludes that the swimmer’s itch can be traced to free-swimming larvae of bird parasites of the family Schistosomatidae (Trematoda):

“Contact with Schistosomatidae [larval flatworm parasites] in the water causes swimmer’s itch. The skin erupts when the body’s immune system successfully neutralizes the flatworms. If an individual experiences no allergic reaction then that indicates that the flatworms have successfully penetrated the skin. Once there, however, they will perish before long [humans aren’t suitable hosts]. Schistosomatidae feed on mallards and scaups, which sometimes inhabit the area around Landmannalaugar.”

The Environment Agency–in collaboration with specialists–is currently endeavouring to prevent future outbreaks of swimmer’s itch in the geothermal pools in Landmannalaugar.

“Preventing an outbreak of swimmer’s itch has proven unsuccessful this year. It’s important that visitors of the geothermal pool are conscious of the risk of contracting swimmer’s itch,” the bulletin states.

According to a spokesperson for the Environment Agency, the best way to prevent an outbreak of swimmer’s itch is to restrict the access of ducklings to the bathing site and the adjacent brook.

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