Kala Azar (Black Death)


    In Context 

    • According to reports, eleven districts of Bengal have reported at least 65 cases of black fever or kala azar in the last couple of weeks


    • About:
      • It is a slow progressing indigenous disease caused by a protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
      • Kala azar or leishmaniases is one of the most dangerous neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) which is endemic in 76 countries, with approximately 200 million people at risk of infection
    • Forms: 
      • There are 3 main forms of leishmaniasis – visceral (also known as kala-azar, which is and the most serious form of the disease), cutaneous (the most common where skin is affected), and mucocutaneous
    • Transmission: 
      • Leishmania parasites are transmitted through the bites of infected female phlebotomine sandflies, which feed on blood to produce eggs.
        • Some 70 animal species, including humans, have been found as natural reservoir hosts of Leishmania parasites.
    • Impacts: 
      • The disease affects some of the poorest people and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and lack of financial resources.
      • Leishmaniasis is also linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, building of dams, irrigation schemes and urbanization.
    • Prevention and control:
      • Prevention and control of leishmaniasis requires a combination of intervention strategies.
      • It is a treatable and curable disease, “which requires an immunocompetent system because medicines will not get rid of the parasite from the body, thus the risk of relapse if immunosuppression occurs”.
      • Effective disease surveillance is important to promptly monitor and act during epidemics and situations with high case fatality rates under treatment.