Title: “Sand Flies Spreading Disease in the US, Prompting Concerns Among Health Officials”
The sand fly, a small tan insect similar to mosquitoes, has become a growing concern in the United States due to its ability to transmit a parasite that causes leishmaniasis, an infectious disease. This alarming revelation has been made by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has detected cases of leishmaniasis in patients who have not traveled outside the US.
Unlike mosquitoes, sand flies are most active at night and can easily slip through ordinary mosquito nets, making them difficult to detect and prevent. Skin infections caused by leishmaniasis start with a small bump that escalates into ulcerous sores after being bitten by a sand fly. Although the sores are generally not painful, they can cause scarring and disfigurement, particularly if they appear on the face. The consequences can be fatal if left untreated, as the parasite can infect internal organs.
The CDC study focused on skin samples, with most of them originating from Texas, the only state that requires doctors to report leishmaniasis cases. However, locally acquired cases have also been reported in southeast Oklahoma, indicating the potential spread of the disease to neighboring states. Additionally, sand flies carrying the parasite have expanded their range and have been found as far north as Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio, and Maryland. These findings suggest that climate change may be contributing to the sand flies’ establishment in northern states.
Researchers analyzed over 2,100 skin samples sent to the CDC, and alarmingly, 1,136 of them tested positive for leishmaniasis. The most common species of the parasite found in non-travelers in the US was Leishmania mexicana. Surprisingly, a specific genotype, CCC, was present in nearly 94% of non-travelers infected, indicating that it may be endemic in the US.
Health officials are urging individuals to take precautions to avoid sand flies, including using bug sprays containing DEET and spraying camping equipment and clothing with permethrin. It is crucial to seek treatment if new skin sores do not disappear after a bug bite. Treatment for leishmaniasis involves a month-long course of medications to combat the parasite.
The CDC study has highlighted a concerning trend, revealing a lack of awareness regarding leishmaniasis among doctors in the US. This calls for increased education and awareness campaigns to ensure prompt detection and treatment of this potentially devastating disease.
As the threat of leishmaniasis continues to grow, health officials and experts are working tirelessly to better understand and control the spread of sand flies and the associated dangers they bring. Vigilance, prevention, and early treatment remain crucial in tackling this concerning public health issue across the United States.
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