By ROBERT KENNEDY, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan – An outbreak of a tropical disease caused by sand fly bites that leaves disfiguring skin sores has hit Afghanistan, with tens of thousands of people infected, health officials said Friday.
Cutaneous leishmanisis is a parasitic disease transmitted by the female phlebotomine sand fly — an insect only 2-3 millimeters long that requires the blood of humans or animals so its eggs can develop. Treatable with medication and not life-threatening, cutaneous leishmanisis can leave severe scars on the bodies of victims.
The disease threatens 13 million people in Afghanistan, the World Health Organization said, and many impoverished Afghan victims can’t afford the medication to treat it.
In Kabul — described by the WHO as “the world capital of cutaneous leishmaniasis” — the number of cases jumped from an estimated 17,000 a year in the early 2000s to 65,000 in 2009, WHO said.
Most victims are women and children. WHO said women and children are more vulnerable because they mostly live indoors at night, where the sand flies prefer to bite, and are therefore more susceptible than men who are generally outside the home.
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