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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More