News / Middle East

Health Experts: Leishmaniasis on the Rise in War-Torn Syria

A doctor treats a child showing symptoms of Leishmaniasis at a hospital in Aleppo, February 11, 2013.
A doctor treats a child showing symptoms of Leishmaniasis at a hospital in Aleppo, February 11, 2013.
Cecily Hilleary
Health workers in northern Syria have reported a dramatic rise in cases of Leishmaniasis--locally dubbed “Aleppo Button Disease” for the sores it produces--and are calling on the World Health Organization and other international agencies for help.  

Causes and treatment
 
Leishmaniasis, transmitted through the bite of the common sandfly, is a complex of diseases affecting different parts of the body. The kind most commonly found in Syria is called cutaneous Leishmaniasis, which is characterized by welts or sores on the skin. These can sometimes become infected.

Mark
Sandfly (Phlebotomus papatasi)Sandfly (Phlebotomus papatasi)
x
Sandfly (Phlebotomus papatasi)
Sandfly (Phlebotomus papatasi)
Wiser is Associate Professor at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in the southern U.S. city of New Orleans and an expert on Leishmaniasis. He says the skin sores usually heal on their own, but often not for months or even years, leaving ugly scars.
 
“Generally your immune system will control the parasite and eliminate it,” Wiser said, “and so for the most part, the disease is not life-threatening.”
 
However, he says, cutaneous Leishmaniasis can sometimes cause more serious problems affecting the spleen and the liver.
 
“And in that case, it’s very dangerous and the disease is likely to be fatal,” Wiser said.
 
Wiser says he is not surprised to learn about the rise in cases of Leishmaniasis in Syria, as wartime conditions can often compromise immune systems. 
 
“And that might be why you are seeing it more in children, whose immune systems are less-developed, and then there’s going to be a lot of malnutrition, which also lowers immunity,” he said. “And if a person’s immune system is not fully able to handle the parasite then it could present fairly serious problems.”
Basic conditions are very poor for the Syrian people, so this Leishmaniasis is spreading quickly


Prevention and Treatment
 
Before the civil war begin in Syria, health authorities controlled outbreaks by spraying pesticides, but the breakdown of sanitation services has curtailed spraying, and not everyone can afford the price of mosquito nets, at $10 apiece.
 
Dr. Kerem Kinik, director of Doctors Worldwide in Turkey that provides medical help to doctors inside Syria, says Leishmaniasis was always known in the country, particularly Aleppo, and provinces along the border with Turkey. For several years, the health ministries of both countries worked together to prevent and control the incidence of the disease. 
 
“But unfortunately, since the beginning of the Syrian uprising two years ago, there are no public services anymore, especially health services,” Kinik said. “Basic conditions are very poor for the Syrian people, so this Leishmaniasis is spreading quickly.”
 
Men stand near garbage filling a street in Aleppo, February 11, 2013. Poor waste management and lack of hygiene have fuelled its spreadMen stand near garbage filling a street in Aleppo, February 11, 2013. Poor waste management and lack of hygiene have fuelled its spread
x
Men stand near garbage filling a street in Aleppo, February 11, 2013. Poor waste management and lack of hygiene have fuelled its spread
Men stand near garbage filling a street in Aleppo, February 11, 2013. Poor waste management and lack of hygiene have fuelled its spread
Power cuts, fuel and water shortages and poor sanitation and a lack of other public services have combined to create conditions ripe for transmission of the disease. Kinik says it is difficult to assess the exact number of cases inside Syria today. 
 
“Before the conflict, the program had reduced the number of cases in Syria to 3,000 to 4,000,” Kinik said. But Turkey’s Zaman newspaper reported recently that 100,000 cases of leishmaniasis have been diagnosed since the start of the crisis.
 
The drug Glucantime, which is injected directly into the sores, is usually the first-line treatment, but like so many medicines, it is scarce in war-torn Syria.
 
“This is not a commercially-available medicine in Turkey,” Kinik said, “because traditionally, we have few cases of Leishmaniasis. Now, we are trying to push the public health authority to import Glucantime, so that we can help more cases in Syria.”

You May Like

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid