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Leishmaniasis outbreak in northern Cameroon kills 17

Leishmaniasis upsurge in the town of Maroua, in the far north of Cameroon, has led to the death of 17…

Leishmaniasis upsurge in the town of Maroua, in the far north of Cameroon, has led to the death of 17 people.

The government through the Ministry of Public health reported in mid-February cases of acute fever and rash syndrome of unknown aetiology from the Far North and North regions of the country. Since then, major clinical manifestations of the illness which include skin rash, persistent fever, malnutrition, anaemia, hepato-splenomegaly and adenopathy has been detected.

According to statistics from six health district of the Far North region of Cameroon, 48 cases with similar clinical features including 17 deaths had been registered between January 2016 and 24 March 2017. The report reveals that, thirty six of the 48 cases investigated had no established epidemiological links, negating contact contagion as a mode of transmission. Six cases are currently hospitalised in Mokolo district hospital.

Leishmaniasis is caused by the protozoan Leishmania parasites that are transmitted through the bites of infected female sand-flies. The disease is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system, and poverty. Factors which are all prevalent in the Far North and North regions of the country, in addition to availability of the vectors.
Detection of the outbreak in the North regions sources say, took several weeks due to weak surveillance system especially for a neglected tropical diseases like leishmaniasis, inadequate laboratory diagnostic capacity, shortage of essential medicines, limited numbers of trained health workers, amongst others. Some parts of the affected areas are also experiencing insecurity, with poor communication network to the rest of the country and limited coverage and accessibility to health services.
In the bid to address some of the existing challenges, government says it has partnered with the World Health Organisation, WHO, to ship pentavalent antimonials, paromomycin, rapid diagnostic tests and supplies for leishmaniasis testing and case management from its emergency stocks to Cameroon. A neglected tropical diseases (NTD) case management expert will also be deployed from WHO headquarters to work closely with the Ministry of Public Health.
More than 10,000 people have been treated for the disease in the last month since its detection.

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