Leishmania infection (cont.)

If not treated, visceral leishmaniasis can cause death. It is very rare for travelers to get visceral leishmaniasis. The best way for travelers to prevent getting leishmaniasis is by protecting themselves from sand fly bites. Vaccines and drugs for preventing infection are not yet available. To decrease their risk of being bitten, travelers should:

  • Stay in well-screened or air-conditioned areas as much as possible. Avoid outdoor activities, especially from dusk to dawn, when sand flies are the most active. When outside, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. Tuck your shirt into your pants.
  • Apply insect repellent on uncovered skin and under the ends of sleeves and pant legs. Follow the instructions on the label of the repellent. The most effective repellents are those that contain the chemical DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide). The concentration of DEET varies among repellents. Repellents with DEET concentrations of 30-35% are quite effective, and the effect should last about 4 hours. Lower concentrations should be used for children (no more than 10% DEET). Repellents with DEET should be used sparingly on children from 2 to 6 years old and not at all on children less than 2 years old.
  • Spray clothing with permethrin-containing insecticides. The insecticide should be reapplied after every five washings.
  • Spray living and sleeping areas with an insecticide to kill insects.
  • If you are not sleeping in an area that is well screened or air-conditioned, use a bed net and tuck it under your mattress. If possible, use a bed net that has been soaked in or sprayed with permethrin. The permethrin will be effective for several months if the bed net is not washed. Keep in mind that sand flies are much smaller than mosquitoes and therefore can get through smaller holes. Fine-mesh netting (at least 18 holes to the inch; some sources say even finer) is needed for an effective barrier against sand flies. This is particularly important if the bed net has not been treated with permethrin. However, it may be uncomfortable to sleep under such a closely woven bed net when it is hot.

NOTE: Bed nets, repellents containing DEET, and permethrin should be purchased before traveling and can be found in hardware, camping, and military surplus stores.

NOTE ALSO: Some people have had cutaneous leishmaniasis more than once. Therefore, you should follow the preventive measures listed above whenever you are in an area where leishmaniasis is found.


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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