Deadly Parasite Hits South Sudan, 260 dead

November 11, 2010 (SSNA) — A fatal parasitic disease, kala azar, has killed at least 260 people, many of whom are children who suffer from malnutrition, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Southern Sudan Abdinasir Abubakar said on Thursday.

"Since September last year, 260 people died of kala azar in southern Sudan, most of them children who suffer from malnutrition. The most affected areas are (still) Jonglei and Upper Nile, particularly at Ayoka and Old Fangak (Jonglei) where more than half the cases are concentrated”, Abubakar was quoted by AFP as saying.

Various humanitarian organizations operating in the Southern Sudan have recently warned that South Sudan could face “serious outbreak” of the deadly disease.

“These cases have been much earlier than normal. About 31 people died in June and July, compared to eight deaths in the previous six months. These are only the number of registered deaths. It is likely that there are more deaths out in the communities. All untreated victims die within one to four months”, Dr Munir Lugga, director of the tropical endemic diseases based in Southern Sudan was quoted as saying.

However, the ministry of health in the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) disputes the report saying, “the number of the dead could be higher”.

Kala azar (leishmaniasis) is contracted when a person is bitten by a sand fly, and its symptoms include vomiting, nosebleeds, swollen spleen, fever, diarrhea, and many others.

“The geographical distribution of leishmaniasis is restricted to tropical and temperate regions, the living area of the sandfly. The leishmaniases are considered to be endemic in 88 countries (16 developed countries and 72 developing countries) on four continents. Ninty percent of cases with cutaneous forms of leishmaniasis occur in Afghanistan, Algeria, Brazil, Iran, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Syria, while ninety per cent of visceral leishmaniasis cases are found in Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Nepal and Sudan”, according to World Health Organization (WHO) report on Global Surveillance of Epidemic-prone Infectious Diseases.

Healthcare services is seriously lacking throughout Southern Sudan due to decades of civil war.

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