Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Rare Outbreak of Leishmaniasis Kills More Than 150 in Ethiopia

AFP -- A rare outbreak of parasite-borne visceral leishmaniasis has killed more than 150 people, many of the children, in northern Ethiopia since the end of last year.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the deadly disease, which is also known as Kala Azar and is transmitted by the female sandfly, had ravaged the town of Bura about 650 kilometers (405 miles) north of the capital since late November.

"Approximatively 150 people, mainly children up to 12 years old, have died from Kala Azar since last November in Bura," said Ioanna Pertsinibou an official with MSF Greece in Addis Ababa.

"It is too much for a population of approximatively 6,000 people," she said, adding that the outbreak had not yet been contained and could be spreading throughout the Amhara region where Bura is located.

"We are still diagnosing new cases, also in other parts of Amhara region," Pertsinibou said, adding that since May, 231 people had been treated for the disease.

She noted that visceral leishmaniasis had not appeared in the area before and that patients not treated usually die within six months of acquiring it.

Visceral leishmaniasis usually manifests itself in patients with fever, weight loss, an enlarged spleen and liver and attacks the immune system.

About 500,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed each year, more than 90 percent of which are found in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan, and Brazil, according to the World Health Organization.

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