Health & Medicine

Flesh-Eating disease spreading across Syria

photo credit: The Leishmania parasite. Shutterstock

As if years of oppression, terrorism and war were not harrowing enough for the Syrian people, the country is now experiencing an epidemic of a “flesh-eating” disease. All outbreaks of this disease, referred to as leishmaniasis, have been repeatedly reported over the last year.

The head of the Kurdish Red Crescent was said to have more recently stated the issue was made worse by the activities of the Islamic State leaving human bodies to rot within the streets. However, while leishmaniasis includes a severe issue inside Syria, this image of a flesh-eating disease that is spread by terrorists is not completely accurate.

Leishmaniasis actually has been endemic to Syria for a long time and was, at one time, typically referred to as “Aleppo evil”. The skin-affecting (cutaneous) type of the disease is not stringently “flesh eating”, even though an additional type discovered inside Brazil and some additional regions of South America may be. It’s caused by a Leishmania parasite that’s carried by sandflies. If you are bitten by a fly, these parasites have the ability to enter the bloodstream and invade the macrophage immune cells which usually kill bugs, and cause terrible open sores near the bite.

In other regions, especially in India, a different type of the parasite will spread to the spleen and liver and lead to death as those critical visceral organs become broken down.

Given that leishmaniasis can’t be spread to colder regions and is restricted by good healthcare, the suggestion that it might be carried by refugees will hold no force.

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