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Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

alkmaar
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Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

On a German blog I read the sad story of a family on Margarita that had two of their three dogs terminated by government officials in an attempt to stop a disease called leishmaniasis. I understand that this disease is initially spread through the bites of sandflies.

Now I have been bitten plenty of times by sandflies on the beaches of Margarita, but it worries me that, according to Wikipedia, it can take weeks, months or even years before the symptoms appear.

So what is the situation on Margarita? Will killing all the (stray) dogs on Margarita put a halt to the leishmaniasis? Are tourists in risk? I was planning to go to Margarita for two months this summer, but now I am in serious doubt.

If you google "leishmaniasis" and "margarita" you will have to conclude that this problem already existed in the 90's on Margarita and only now the authorities seem to be doing something about is. BTW: those poor dogs....

alkmaar
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1. Re: Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

I just checked with my MD. The dogs get it from the sandflies, and the people get it from the dogs. People don't get it directly from the sandflies. So it is better to stay away from the strays. This message is NOT A MEDICAL ADVISE however. Please post your opinion if you are an expert on the subject.

Margarita Island
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2. Re: Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

I have lived in Margarita for more than 20 years & have never encountered any human with this problem.

As you suggest stay away from stray animals.

alkmaar
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3. Re: Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

Correction: not sandflies, but sandfleas.

Juan Griego...
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4. Re: Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

Hi. Wow, I have been here for years and I have never heard of a case of leishmaniasis. I even had to wiki it to see what it was. Here´s the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leishmaniasis

A few months ago, the State government sent some vehicles out around the island at night without prior notification, throwing poisoned meat to the street dogs. A couple died just in front of my house and their corpses were removed the following day - I don´t know how many hundreds would have been exterminated around the island. I have a couple of dogs in the hotel and I take them walking a few times a day, so I was very unhappy about this method of dealing with street animals, even those that may be infected. But that´s how things are done in South America, whether I approve or not. The point being, I had to look up info for this illness. It is certainly not common on Margarita, and according to the wiki, you can just as easily catch it in Texas!!!! I don´t think you should worry too much. I live here with my wife and 16 month old daughter and it doesn´t worry me.

alkmaar
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5. Re: Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

The fact that you may not have heard of this disease on Margarita might very well be explained by the indifference of the Venezuelan authories. May I suggest that you google the words "leishmaniasis" and "margarita"? This will show you that the problem has long existed on Margarita but was simply ignored. Only recently the authorities were forced to act..... Leishmaniasis is a horrible disease.

It is best to avoid contact with dogs, especially strays, but pet dogs may be infected too.

My favourite hotel had about 10 to 15 of stray dogs roaming the grounds and these were fed by guests taking food out of the restaurants. Also they were fed with leftovers by the hotel's kitchen staff.

You may feel sorry for the dogs, but never the less: don't go near them on Margarita.

Juan Griego...
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6. Re: Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

As you suggested I googled "leishmaniasis" and "Margarita". What I found was that most of the links dated from around 2002-3. However, there was a blog post from a Cuban doctor dated 11 march in which s/he reports 31 confirmed cases of the canine-related illness in and around the small town of Santa Ana (well away from the beach).

…wordpress.com/2011/…

I imagine that it was because of this that the authorities decided to cull the dogs in the manner that I referred to in my previous posting. It is fair for camilo4 to draw this issue to the attention of both visitorsand inhabitants of the island. Many people who come here for their holidays feel sorry for the strays and street animals and insist on feeding them. Maybe now after camilo4´s post they will reconsider.

However I stand by my previous point about the need to unduly panick about this local outbreak. On the island there has been no general health warning issued regarding this disease, and I think it is somewhat condescending to ascribe this to "indifference" on the part of the health authorities. My personal experience of the health system here on the island - as a foreigner and father of a small child - has been entirely positive. It is free to consult a doctor, visit a hospital, see a specialist, have tests, and if the doctor/hospital has the drugs that you need in stock they will also give them to you for free. They simply ask for your name and age, not your passport or Venezuelan ID card. They are fastidious about innoculations for babies, and anti-flu jabs (for example) are freely available to all while stocks last. A far from an "indifferent" approach to public health care. maybe the US should adopt this same level of "indifference".

7. Re: Leishmaniasis on Margarita Island

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