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The Visceral Leishmaniasis Epidemic

            Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) is one of the deadliest epidemics in human history but is also one of the least recognized and reported. It is classified as Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), mainly targeting children, young adults, women and the poorest community of developing nations. Visceral Leishmaniasis is one type of Leishmaniasis that is the most severe form of the illness and if left untreated is fetal. Despite enormous efforts, it has proved difficult to predict the exact scale of the impact of the Leishmaniasis on public health, since many cases go unreported or misdiagnosed. It is estimated that approximately 12 million people are currently infected and a further 367 million are at risk of acquiring Leishmaniasis in 88 countries, 72 of which are developing countries and 13 of them are among the least developed in the world. More than 500,000 VL cases are reported yearly and ninety percent of these cases occur in India, Nepal, Sudan, Bangladesh and Brazil, heavily concentrated in South Asia and Africa. Thanks to the advancement of modern medicine, there are different medicines available in treating the disease, but there are no preventative methods or vaccinations available. .
             The cause of Visceral Leishmaniasis was first officially identified by a Scottish Pathologist, William Leishman in 1900. He discovered Leishmania donovani from the spleen of a soldier suffering from a fever contracted at Dum-Dum in India. Prior to Leishman, VL was considered to be a type of malaria that showed relapses, emaciation, including enlargement of liver and spleen. Other symptoms of the disease include but are not limited to fever, weight loss, fatigue, insomnia and joint pains. Another reason VL is deadly is because when the immune system is weakened due to VL, there is a high chance of it being co-existing with HIV. When there is a HIV/Leishmaniasis co-infection, the symptoms of VL tend to be more severe and also make it hard to diagnose the disease due to its additional symptoms.

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