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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid