Nearly 200 cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis have been reported recently in the Safi Tehsil (administrative division) of the Mohmand Agency district in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (FATA) concerning health officials of its possible spread into other tehsils, according to a Daily Times report.

Sandfly/James Gathany
Sandfly/James Gathany

Mohmand Agency Surgeon Dr. Razaullah said health officials in other tehsils have been warned of the outbreak, which has infected 193 to date.

Dr. Razaullah said the disease was a major public health problem in the Agency, especially alongside regions bordering Afghanistan and the tehsils of the agency with a heavy influx of refugees.

Vaccination drives would be conducted in neighboring tehsils.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that is found in parts of the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe. Leishmaniasis is caused by infection with Leishmania parasites, which are spread by the bite of infected sand flies. There are several different forms of leishmaniasis in people. The most common forms are cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores, and visceral leishmaniasis, which affects several internal organs (usually spleen, liver, and bone marrow).

Leishmania major and L. tropica are found in Pakistan.

People with cutaneous leishmaniasis who develop clinical evidence of infection have one or more sores on their skin. The sores can change in size and appearance over time. The sores may start out as papules (bumps) or nodules (lumps) and may end up as ulcers (like a volcano, with a raised edge and central crater); skin ulcers may be covered by scab or crust. The sores usually are painless but can be painful.

There is not a vaccine available to prevent leishmaniasis. The best way is to avoid sandfly bites.