Ministry: Beware of Painful, Growing Skin-Sores Disease

Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There has been a sharp rise in instances of the skin disease Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (tropical sores, also known as “Jericho Buttons”) in recent years, the Health Ministry said Monday. Since 2002, the number of cases reported in Israel has jumped threefold, with most of the increase occurring this decade.

The disease, which causes long-lasting and painful sores, is caused by sandflies infected with parasites. Most patients suffer from sores for a period of 6 to 12 months, and in many cases the sores continue for 24 months. In some cases, hospitalization is necessary. Treatment consists of insecticides to kill the parasites, and antibiotics to treat the sores.

In a position paper the Ministry distributed to doctors, it informed medical personnel of the prevalence of the disease – which had not been acknowledged until now, the Ministry admitted – instructing personnel on ways to detect the disease and on treatment to prevent a worsening of it. In 2003, 1.3 Israelis out of every 1,000 was diagnosed with the disease; by 2012, the number was 4.5 per thousand, and it has been growing since, the Ministry said.

As to the reasons for the increase, the Health Ministry said that there were likely several factors at work, including a change in the population makeup of Israel, with more immigrants from Africa now living here, as well as continued urbanization and the expansion of construction into formerly undeveloped ecosystems, which creates more dust in the air and improves the survival conditions for sandflies. Despite the rapid increase in the numbers of those suffering from the disease, the Ministry added, there is currently no way to prevent its spread.

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