Health officials in Bani Walid Municipality in northwest Libya are reporting an outbreak of the disfiguring parasitic disease, leishmaniasis, according to a local media report.

Phlebotomus papatasi sand fly/James Gathany
Phlebotomus papatasi sand fly/James Gathany

290 cases have been reported although it is not clear when this upsurge of cases began.

The report notes that Director of the Office Ayman al-Hawadi said that the disease has become a nightmare for residents in Bani Walid, especially in the absence of medical treatment, calling on the competent authorities to save the city from a health disaster that could emanate from the spreading of the disease.

In an Libya Observer report today, Chairman of the Commission for the Management of Medical Supply Service, Tahir Bakhir said that medication for leishmaniasis disease will be available by next week; however, he noted that no more than 5,000 doses will be available.

In December, Bakhir warned that leishmaniasis will increase during the months of January and February, to reach thousands of cases.

Leishmaniasis is caused by the protozoan leishmania parasites, which are transmitted by the bite of infected female phlebotomine sandflies – flies that are three times smaller than a mosquito. According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 700,000 to 1 million new cases annually, and they cause 20,000-30,000 deaths each year.

There are three main forms of leishmaniasis: cutaneous, visceral or kala-azar, and mucocutaneous.