Health officials have played down fears of a chronic skin disease spreading nationwide. However, they have urged the public to seek medical treatment for longstanding insect bites noting the serious nature of the disease.

Last week, several media reported that the tropical skin disease, ‘Leishmaniasis,’ which had been present only in certain areas of the country, was now spreading. Most reports had cited statements made by Prof. S.A.M. Kularatne,  Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya on this matter.

However, when contacted by the Nation, Prof. Kularatne said he never made such a statement but it had stemmed from a Presentation at a seminar he helped organized at the University of Peradeniya. He said the findings were presented by several Researchers who were part of this study. However, Prof. Kularatne declined to give further details stating he would first have to consult the Researchers.

According to the Ministry of Health, Leishmaniasis is a vector-borne disease transmitted by the bite of a sandfly. Human Leishmaniasis infection can manifest in three main forms; Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) also known as Kala-azar, Muco-Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (MCL) also known as Espundia and Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (CL).

The sandfly, which carries the disease is a 2-3 mm long noiseless flier that rests in dark, moist places and is mostly active in the evening and night.

While there is a spike in the numbers of reported cases of Leishmaniasis, it do not necessarily mean the country was facing a widespread epidemic, Director of the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit, Dr. Paba Palihawadana stressed.

Dr. Palihawadana said most cases of the disease found in Sri Lanka had been reported from the dry zone; areas such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Hambantota and Matara. These cases were confined to rural areas and Leishmaniasis was not widely reported in urban areas like Colombo, she added.

While there was no need to panic over the disease, Dr. Palihawadana said adding that if anyone had a longstanding wound that had occurred as a result of an insect bite, they needed urgent medical treatment.