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In Depth Report 

Leishmaniasis - Colin Hunter

"It was just a chance thing that this particular fly settled on me and bit me twice and there is not much you can do about that."
Colin Hunter describes how he fell prey to Leishmaniasis

Name: Colin Hunter

Condition: Leishmaniasis

Colin Hunter spent three weeks attached to an intravenous drip having powerful drugs pumped through his body, after a sandfly bite left him with a very unpleasant skin disease.

Colin, from Hayward's Heath, spent five weeks travelling in the remote areas of Mexico and Guatemala.

But a few months after he returned to the UK, the self employed digital imaging engineer, noticed he had two sores on his arms.

He said: "My health was pretty good the whole time I was travelling.

"We had been travelling in some pretty remote areas and camping a lot and this included at least one night out in the jungle as well as other late nights.

"We were pretty exposed to a whole variety of insects."

The first lesion became clear a month after Colin returned and although it caused him no physical discomfort he decided to get it checked out by his GP.

The GP did not recognise what was wrong with Colin. He suggested it could be an infected hair follicle and said Colin should have a course of penicillin.

Spot check
But almost four months after his return Colin noticed the second spot appearing on his wrist.

Luckily he met someone who had also suffered from leishmaniasis and recognised the sores.

"While I was travelling in Sweden there was a guy there who had been travelling in Honduras and he had leishmaniasis and he recognised it."

He told Colin to go straight to a travel clinic.

On his return from Sweden, Colin went straight to his GP who sent him to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where they diagnosed cutaneous leishmaniasis and started his treatment.

Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is a parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of an infected female sandfly.

People with CL can get a large number of skin ulcers - up to 200 in some cases - and can leave the patient permanently scarred.

Colin had spent over £100 on various other precautionary health protections - malaria tablets and a variety of jabs - before going on holiday.

But he said it was just unlucky he was bitten by the sandfly.

"I spent a great deal on preventative vaccines and malaria pills, most of it before travelling, but there was no protection against this apart from insect repellents.

"I did not know about leishmaniasis before travelling, but would that have made any difference?

"I don't know it might have made me a bit more conscientious with the application of insect repellent. But I was using them anyway because there are plenty of biting insects in the jungle.

"It was just a chance thing that this particular fly settled on me and bit me twice and there is not much you can do about that."

This information is for guidance only, and the immunisations recommended may vary widely depending on the nature of your visit. Consult your doctor for advice.


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