Colombian authorities warned of a potential skin disease outbreak Thursday after seven cases of Leishmaniasis were reported in the southcentral city of Neiva.
The Colombian Secretary of Health, Mauricio Santa Maria said that there have been 36 registered cases throughout the country in 2012 of the the skin disease known as Leishmaniasis, which is caused by protozoan parasites and transmitted by sandfly bites. The disease’s symptoms include skin sores and in some cases fever, anemia and damage to the liver and spleen . Santa Maria noted that seven cases were concentrated in Neiva, a city located in the southern department of Huila.
Officials raised the alert level for the disease from green to yellow to hinder the breakout of a larger epidemic. A yellow alert level means the state-run Committee for Disaster Prevention and Response convenes to identify risk factors in the case of a possible outbreak.
Juan Gonzalo Lopez, director of Colombia’s National Health Institute, said that the number of reported cases had decreased in the past few years. He also said he was “optimistic” about the possibility of completely eradicating the disease from Colombian soil, according to El Espectador.
Currently, there are no regular vaccines used to prevent the disease. Drug treatments typically include a chemical element known as antimony, although several less commonly used treatments exist.
Leishmaniasis is easily transmitted in tropical and sub-tropical locales and has been reported in 88 countries.