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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs