According to an interview with the head of the Kurdish Red Crescent at Rudaw, the latest horror unleashed by the Islamic State is a plague of flesh-eating bacteria, spreading rapidly through rural Syria due to the jihadis’ habit of littering the streets with corpses.
“As a result of abominable acts by ISIS that included the killing of innocent people and dumping their corpses in streets, this is the leading factor behind the rapid spread of Leishmanisis disease,” said the Red Crescent’s Dilqash Isa.
Another Kurd deployed in Syria claimed the disease was unknown before the rise of ISIS, and specifically cited the bloody fields of Tal Hamis, Hon, and Qosa as sources of the outbreak.
“The first case of the disease, caused by protozoan parasites and usually carried by flies, was reported in September 2013,” writes Rudaw. “By mid- 2014, 500 people had been affected, according to activists reporting on Syria.”
More precisely, the Centers for Disease Control says leishmanisis is spread by the bite of phlebotomine sand flies, which are only a third the size of a typical mosquito. “The most common forms are cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores, and visceral leishmaniasis, which affects several internal organs (usually spleen, liver, and bone marrow),” adds the CDC.
Advanced cases of visceral leishmaniasis are typically fatal, although fortunately the cutaneous variety is more common in Syria. Unfortunately, survivors are often left with permanent scars.
Health experts have been aware of a dramatic increase in leishmaniasis in Syria for some time. An April 2013 report from Voice of America noted that it has even acquired a local nickname, “Aleppo Button Disease,” so-called because of its distinctive sores. This report noted that the degradation of health services, insect spraying, and hygiene due to the Syrian civil war made the disease dangerous, as cutaneous cases could spread to cause problems with the spleen and liver, particularly in malnourished children who have weak immune systems.
In October 2014, the CDC reported an outbreak of cutaneous leishmaniasis among Syrian refugees in Lebanon. More recent reports have noted outbreaks among the residents of Syrian cities besieged by ISIS, and among Syrian Army forces fighting near Palmyra. A source within the Syrian Army told ARA News the disease was spreading rapidly enough to threaten unit cohesion.