Rabat – Cutaneous leishmaniosis, or the oriental sore, a parasitic disease caused by the bite of a single-celled parasite, is spreading at an alarming pace across Southern Morocco, reported the French Press Agency (AFP).
More than 3,000 cases have been recorded in recent months in the region of Drâa-Tafilalet, according to Bouhout Souad, head of” Parasitic Diseases” division at the Epidemiology Directorate of the Ministry of Health.
“We are observing an increase in the number of patients affected in this region, to the extent that it became a public health problem,” Dr Souad was quoted by AFP as saying, warning that other regions are affected to “lesser degrees”.
The World Health Organization explains that the disease produces ulcers on the exposed parts of the body, such as the face, arms and legs. There may be a large number of lesions – sometimes up to 200 – which can cause serious disability. When the ulcers heal, they invariably leave permanent scars, which are often the cause of serious social prejudice.
The parasites that cause the disease are themselves infected by certain animals that serve as “natural reservoirs.” In southern Morocco, these animals are brown rats.
“The unfavorable hygienic conditions lead to the proliferation of the vector of the disease,” says Souad.
“There is a worrying spread, with sometimes several cases recorded in the same household,” a local was quoted by AFP as saying.
According to the same source awareness and treatment campaigns are underway in Drâa-Tafilalet region, with more than 200,000 people examined since last October, particularly in schools.
The Ministry of Health said that it sent teams to conduct sensitization sessions on “the importance of neighborhood cleanliness.”
However, “the medical team is understaffed and people here are asking for a real mobilization from the government, with the involvement of all relevant departments,” according to a local actor.
According to the WHO, there are between 700,000 and 1 million new cases of leishmaniosis recorded worldwide each year, with “a small proportion of infected people” developing the disease.