New cases of a disfiguring skin disease caused by a parasite have been identified in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The disease, known as leishmaniasis, is typically found in individuals who have traveled to tropical or subtropical regions. However, the CDC has reported 86 cases in people with no recent travel history outside of the U.S., suggesting local transmission.
At a recent conference in Chicago, the CDC presented data indicating that a unique strain of the Leishmania parasite appears to be spreading locally in the U.S., particularly in Texas. Samples submitted to the CDC confirmed the presence of the parasite in this region. However, the CDC emphasized that these findings are most relevant to healthcare providers and do not indicate a serious public health risk.
There have also been anecdotal reports of locally acquired leishmaniasis in Florida, and occasional cases have been detected in Oklahoma and Arizona. Despite these cases, leishmaniasis in the U.S. remains relatively uncommon, with the risk to the general public who do not travel to endemic areas being low.
Proper surveillance and reporting of leishmaniasis cases are crucial for detection and prevention. Currently, only Texas requires reporting to its health department. Prompt reporting can aid in tracking the spread of the disease and implementing necessary preventive measures.
The identified strain of Leishmania mexicana is known to cause relatively mild cases of leishmaniasis. Typically, individuals develop painless bumps on their skin, which may progress to become ulcers. While treatment options are available for severe cases, some medications can be challenging to tolerate.
To reduce the risk of being bitten by sandflies, which transmit the leishmaniasis parasite, individuals are advised to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, particularly when walking in wooded or forested areas. Additionally, using insect repellent can provide further protection.
As more cases of leishmaniasis are identified in the U.S., it is important for healthcare providers and the public to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions. Through proper surveillance, reporting, and preventive measures, the impact of this disfiguring skin disease can be minimized.
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