Skin-Disfiguring Parasite Found in Texas, Maybe Louisiana Too
A parasite that was once thought to be only found overseas has been discovered in Texas and there is reason to believe it is on the move into Louisiana as well. The parasite has been known to cause a skin-disfiguring disease and is now being monitored by the Centers for Disease Control.
Investigators with the CDC believe the host that transmits the parasite is common to not only Texas and Louisiana but to several other southern states.
The parasite, identified as Leishmania, is transferred to humans through the bite of a Sand Fly. Sand flies are common in the Gulf South region of the country. They are about one-fourth the size of a typical mosquito. They have been known to bite their victims while in search of blood. The parasite is transferred from the insect into the victim as the fly is sucking blood.
The disease that is caused by Leishmania is known as leishmaniasis. The most common symptoms are skin sores. In some cases, these skin sores can grow quite large and disfiguring. The parasite can also be a catalyst for fever, weight loss, swelling in the spleen and liver, as well as anemia. In the most extreme cases, leishmaniasis can even be fatal.
Most cases of leishmaniasis have been noted in travelers returning from South America, Africa, or parts of Asia. However, tests done by the CDC on the strain discovered in Texas suggest this strain is genetically different than those strains associated with travel outside the United States.
As of now, the Centers for Disease Control has no vaccine or drugs that can prevent infection. The best advice given by the CDC simply warns people to minimize their exposure to potential bites from the Sand Fly. The flies are most active in the twilight hours of the early evening. Their bites can often go unnoticed and it might actually take several months for a sore to develop from a bite.
The CDC urges caution if you're going to be outside in the evening hours and especially if you have travel plans that take you to Africa, South America, or parts of southern Asia where the parasite is more prevalent.
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