The ESE Regional Norte de Salud de Tibú in North Santander, Catatumbo, Colombia is reporting an outbreak of the parasitic infection, leishmaniasis, according to a RCN Radio report (computer translated).

Health officials say at least ten of those affected are Venezuelan nationals. “Controlling this disease causes a high cost and this difficulty is compounded by the large number of Venezuelan patients who seek care and present different pathologies,” said health manager, Maribel Trujillo.

“Indigenous and peasant communities in remote areas of Catatumbo are the most affected, due to the lack of knowledge of the disease and the lack of medical care to control and care for these people”.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease spread by the bite of the female sandfly.

Phlebotomus papatasi sand fly–a vector of leishmaniasis Image/CDC
Phlebotomus papatasi sand fly–a vector of leishmaniasis

There are different forms of leishmaniasis.

  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis affects the skin and mucous membranes. Skin sores usually start at the site of the sandfly bite. In a few people, sores may develop on mucous membranes.
  • Systemic, or visceral, leishmaniasis affects the entire body. This form occurs 2 – 8 months after a person is bitten by the sandfly. Most people do not remember having a skin sore. This form can lead to deadly complications. The parasites damage the immune system by decreasing the numbers of disease-fighting cells.

Cases of leishmaniasis have been reported on all continents except Australia and Antarctica.

LISTEN: Dr. Peter Hotez discusses leishmaniasis