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Monday, September 23, 2013

Epidemics, including 'black fever,' striking Darfur

An epidemic of visceral leishmaniasis, also referred to as 'black fever,' is ravaging three of the five federal states in the Darfur region of Sudan, thus far killing at least 25 people. Estimates suggest that at minimum 5,000 others have been infected, causing grave concerns amoungst medical personnel.

A separate outbreak of a still-unidentified infection is hitting North Darfur as well, one which has killed an additional 4 people. Surges of scabies and ringworm have also been affecting the areas stricken, overwhelming hospital capacities since last year.

Agricultural officials are quietly alarmed over a potential food crisis stemming from these epidemics, fearful that the debilitating nature of the illness is preventing people from attending to crops. If the yield is hampered too greatly the potential for long-term food shortages is expanded, which could result in cataclysmic under-nourishment in the already impoverished region.

Black fever under microscope

Black fever is considered one of the deadliest parasitic diseases, only surpassed by malaria in scale and scope. An estimated 500,000 people are infected worldwide annually, and if left untreated in an individual it causes an extremely painful death by attacking the internal organs and bone-marrow of the patient.

The combination of these highly-infectious diseases has officials closing public areas and schools, though the destitute nature of the area - combined with years of malignant neglect - makes battling the epidemics a Herculean task.

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