Communicable Diseases
Leishmaniasis

​​​​​​​Overview:

  • Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease spread by the bite of infected sand flies.
  • There are different forms of leishmaniasis in people. The most common forms are cutaneous leishmaniasis and visceral leishmaniasis.
  • Treatment as per the direction of the doctor.
  • No vaccines or drugs to prevent infection are available, but there are guidelines and methods to prevent infection.
Definition: 
Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease spread by the bite of infected sand flies. Sandflies usually are most active in the twilight, evening, and night-time hours (from dusk to dawn), and they are more common in rural areas.  

Types:
The most common forms of Leishmaniasis are:
  • The cutaneous form, which causes skin sores.
  • The visceral form, which affects several internal organs such as spleen, liver, and bone marrow.
Other names:
Leishmania infection

The most vulnerable groups:
People living in the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe, where the disease is spreading. 

Symptoms:
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL): Some people have a silent infection, without any symptoms or signs, they may have one or more sores on their skin. The sores can change in size and appearance over time. The sores may start out as papules (bumps) or nodules (lumps) and may end up as ulcers (like a volcano, with a raised edge and central crater); skin ulcers may be covered by scab or crust. The sores usually are painless but can be painful. Some people have swollen glands near the sores depending on the area of the sore.
  • Visceral leishmaniasis: Some people have a silent infection, without any symptoms or signs, but if symptoms appear, they are in the form of:
  • Fever. 
  • Weight loss.
  • Enlargement (swelling) of the spleen and liver.
  • Low red blood cell count (anemia).
  • A low platelet count.
When to see a doctor?
When noticing the abovementioned symptoms, living in, or traveling to countries where the disease has been discovered.

Complications:
Cutaneous leishmaniasis complications may include:
  • Bleeding or disfigurement.
  • Other infections due to a weakened immune system, which can be life-threatening.
Visceral leishmaniasis complications may include:
  • It is often fatal due to the effects it has on both internal organs and your immune system.
  • If you have HIV or AIDS, you’re at a higher risk of getting this disease.
Diagnosis: 
Your doctor may take tissue specimens—such as from skin sores (for cutaneous leishmaniasis) or from bone marrow (for visceral leishmaniasis)—to be examined for the parasite under a microscope. Also, blood tests can be done to detect antibodies (an immune response) to the parasite for cases of visceral leishmaniasis. 

Treatment:
Treatment is as per the direction of the doctor. Although cutaneous leishmaniasis lesions usually heal spontaneously they cause unsightly scarring. If not treated, severe (advanced) cases of visceral leishmaniasis typically are fatal.

Prevention:
No vaccines or drugs to prevent infection are available. The best way for travelers to prevent infection is to protect themselves from sandfly bites. To decrease the risk of being bitten, follow these preventive measures:
  • Avoid outdoor activities, especially from dusk to dawn, when sand flies generally are the most active.
  • Avoid sleeping in open areas near farms, animal enclosures, and rat burrow to avoid infection.
  • When outdoors, or in unprotected places, the body must be covered to avoid infection.
  • Use a mosquito net while sleeping. 
  • Wear socks, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants.
  • Apply insect repellent on uncovered skin.
  • Follow the instructions on the label of the repellent.

Clinical Education General Department
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