There are few reports describing the epidemiology of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in Somalia. Over the years 2002 to 2005, a yearly average of 140 patients were reported from the Huddur centre in Bakool region, whereas in 2006, this number rose to 1002 patients. Given the limited amount of information on VL and the opportunity to compare features with the studies done in 2000 in this part of Somalia, we describe the epidemiologic and clinical features of patients who presented to the Huddur treatment centre of Bakool region, Somalia, using data routinely collected over a five-year observation period (2002–2006).
Methods used included the analysis of routine data on VL cases treated in the Huddur treatment centre, a retrospective study of records of patients admitted between 2004 and 2006, community leaders interviews, and analysis of blood specimens taken for parasite species identification in Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine.
A total of 1671 VL patients were admitted to the Huddur centre from January 2002 until December 2006. Nearly all patients presented spontaneously to the health centre. Since 2002, the average patient load was stable, with an average of 140 admissions per year. By the end of 2005, the number of admissions dramatically increased to reach a 7-fold increase in 2006. The genotype of L. donovani identified in 2006 was similar to the one reported in 2002. 82% of total patients treated for VL originated from two districts of Bakool region, Huddur and Tijelow districts. Clinical recovery rate was 93.2% and case fatality rate 3.9%.
After four years of low but constant VL case findings, a major increase in VL was observed over a 16-month period in the Huddur VL centre. The profile of the patients was pediatric and mortality relatively low. Decentralized treatment centers, targeted active screening, and community sensitization will help decrease morbidity and mortality from VL in this endemic area. The true magnitude of VL in Somalia remains unknown. Further documentation to better understand transmission dynamics and thus define appropriate control measures will depend on the stability of the context and safe access to the Somali population.
Our paper describes the epidemiological features of visceral leishmaniasis in the Bakool region, South Central Somalia, over the years 2004 to 2006. Since 2000, Médecins Sans Frontières has been providing care for patients suffering from visceral leishmaniasis in Huddur, located in a region endemic for visceral leishmaniasis. By the end of 2005, we witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of patients admitted to the Huddur centre with visceral leishmaniasis. In our paper, we provide a description of the profile of patients admitted, thus giving an insight into the epidemiology of visceral leishmaniasis in a part of the world where relatively little has been documented and where the true magnitude of this neglected disease remains unknown.