Increase in flesh-eating parasite observed in refugees in Syria, Middle East generally

Sand flies carry the disease.  Here is the story in the Gulf News (which credits the Washington Post for the story, but I don’t see it there in a quick look):

Cutaneous leishmaniasis in refugee populations in Middle East

Al Salama, Syria: A crowd gathers at the centre of Bab Al Salam, a refugee camp on the Turkey-Syria border that is home to some 13,500 internally displaced Syrians. Children sit at their mothers’ feet, playing with plastic toys in the melting mud. One boy’s cheeks are pocked with small red dots; a boy next to him, wearing nothing but a diaper, has a large crusted lesion on his leg – signs of an infectious skin disease that is spreading throughout Syria and the neighboring region.

Since war came to Syria a little more than two years ago, the country has been transformed into a public health nightmare. Gastroenteritis, which causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain, is ubiquitous among displaced populations – both inside and outside Syria – and a measles epidemic is currently sweeping the northern portion of the country. (At least 7,000 cases of the disease have been detected since 2011, according to Doctors Without Borders.) An outbreak of water-borne diseases such as hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and dysentery, meanwhile, is all but “inevitable,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But in camps like Bab al-Salam, it is a silent, flesh-eating parasite that is literally leaving its mark on the population. Cutaneous leishmaniasis, also known as the “Aleppo evil” or the “Aleppo boil,” is carried by sand flies and causes painful lesions that can become secondarily infected, often resulting in disfigurement. Another form of leishmaniasis – visceral – affects the spleen and liver, and it is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world after malaria. Mercifully, it is only the nonlethal parasite that is coursing through the Syrian countryside, where years of fighting has made seeking medical treatment extraordinarily difficult. Still, the parasite leaves its victims scarred for life.

There is more, here.

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