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Leishmaniasis- a deadly but ignored disease

A  village  in Gilgil, Nakuru  County  has been  ravaged by the deadly cutaneous leishmaniasis disease which is caused by  the  sandflies, and  they  are  appealing to the government to come to their aid.

An  area  Community  Health  Volunteer, Joseph  Kigutu  said  almost all the residents who live near Utut and Eburu forest  in  Gilgil sub-county are affected by the disease.

Kigutu  told  KNA there has been a lot of interest in the area from Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and other  health NGOs, but all they seem to be interested in was just research and none goes back to assist in the eradication of  the disease.

The disease which is popularly known in the area as ‘’Utut’’ manifests itself in a lesion or a small wound on the skin but  it keeps on widening with the infected person feeling itchy and scratching continuously.

“This  incurable disease starts as a pimple with some rashes and after about two weeks the pimple bursts and a wound  starts and it keeps on widening as the days go by leaving nasty features on the skin. In most cases it affects the face and that  reduces the self-esteem of the infected people,’’ he said.

He  said  in  the past people who were affected by the diseases were considered cursed but an NGO trained them and  they realized that it’s caused by the sandflies which are prevalent in the area.

He  added that in each family two to three people were affected and that was mainly because they depend on the forest  for  firewood and pasture and yet inside the forests there are many rocky hyrax where the sandflies, which cause the disease live.

However, a  researcher  from KEMRI, Dr. Philip Ngumbi  said as much as the disease was a nuisance it was difficult to  eradicate it due to the natural existence of Rock Hyrax in the area.

“These  sandflies  lay  around 80 to 100 eggs and they are known as pull feeders because after pinching the skin with their  saw-like-teeth, to feed on the blood, they spread the parasite particularly on the face because it is exposed,’’ he  stated.

Dr. Ngumbi  said Leishmaniasis is one of the neglected diseases and the rich drug manufacturers were not determined to find  its cure as it affects only a few people and especially those extremely poor.

To  avoid  the disease, he advised residents to use mosquito nets and wear long sleeved clothes.

By  Peter  Kariuki/Veronica Bosibori

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