Health Check: Black fever outbreak in Sudan

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The worst outbreak of "black fever" in nearly a decade has hit Southern Sudan. Unless it's treated, Kala Azar - also known as visceral leishmaniasis - kills nearly all of those infected. The World Health Organisation estimates there are up to 500,000 new cases every year.

It's spread by sandfly bites - and symptoms include anaemia, nausea and a swollen liver or spleen, where the parasite multiplies, overwhelming the immune system.

The commonest treatment is an antimonial drug from the 1930's, SSG, which is very toxic and can itself kill. Koert Ritmeijer who's head of Médecins Sans Frontières' medical department in Amsterdam says at their clinic in Malakal they are now using a shorter combination treatment which is less toxic.

Sagena Walle who's travelled from the village of Adong to get to the clinic has 4 children, and 3 of them have had Kala Azar. She says many families cannot afford the trip to the clinic even when their children are very sick.

MSF on Kala Azar

WHO on Kala Azar/Visceral Leishmaniasis

BBC World Service - Science - Health Check

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