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Leishmaniasis in Kenya

04 Apr 2023

At the beginning of 2019 an outbreak of Kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis) was reported in Kenya in the counties of Marsabit and Wajir. Since 3 January 2020 there have been 2233 cases of infection reported from eight Kenyan counties namely: Marsabit, Garissa, Kitui, Baringo, West Pokot, Mandera, Wajir, Tharaka Nithi, and Isiolo: including 10 deaths.

In West Pokot, where the outbreak is still active, 33 new cases were reported in the week ending 19 March 2023. 

Leishmaniasis is an infection transmitted to humans from the bites of sandflies. There are three main forms of infection. Visceral leishmaniasis is the most serious form and can be fatal if untreated. 

Symptoms include high temperature (fever), loss of appetite, weight loss and abdominal pain. Treatment is available but can be complex. There is no vaccine against human leishmaniasis.

Advice for Travellers

All travellers to affected areas should be aware of the risk and how to reduce your risk of being bitten.

You can reduce your risk of being bitten by sandflies by:

  • minimising time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn when sandflies are most active
  • covering skin with clothing where possible
  • wearing insecticide-treated clothing when outdoor activity is unavoidable
  • using insect repellent on exposed skin
  • spraying accommodation with an insecticide to kill insects
  • sleeping under insecticide treated bed nets (fine mesh size is required), or in air-conditioned rooms
  • using fans (which disrupt the movement of sandflies) and sleeping elevated from the floor  - sandflies are weak fliers

For further information see the fitfortravel Leishmaniasis page and Insect Bite Avoidance page.