Leishmaniasis

sand fly

What is leishmaniasis?

Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by a parasite. Sand flies can spread this parasite to people when the sand fly bites them.

Two common forms of leishmaniasis are cutaneous and visceral.

The most common symptom of cutaneous leishmaniasis is skin sores that can change in size and appearance over time. These sores may be closed, like a lump or a bump, or open (ulcer). Some people have swollen glands near the sores.

Common symptoms of visceral leishmaniasis are fever and weight loss. People with visceral leishmaniasis can also have an enlarged spleen and liver, low red blood cell count (anemia), low white blood cell count (leukopenia), and low platelet count (thrombocytopenia).

Information by Destination
woman in airport

Where are you going?

Some people with leishmaniasis never have symptoms.

Who is at risk?

Sand flies are found in certain parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Southern Europe, Mexico, Central America, and South America. Travelers going to these areas are at risk of being bitten by sand flies and getting infected.

See if leishmaniasis is a concern at your destination.

What can travelers do to prevent leishmaniasis?

There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents leishmaniasis. Travelers can take the following steps to prevent sand fly bites:

Use an EPA-registered insect repellent

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  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the active ingredients below. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. If also using sunscreen, always apply insect repellent after sunscreen.
    • DEET
    • Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)
    • IR3535
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
    • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
    • 2-undecanone

Find the right insect repellent for you by using EPA's search tool.

graphic: putting repellent on child

  • Insect Repellent Tips for Babies and Children
    • Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
    • Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
    • When using insect repellent on your child:
      • Always follow label instructions.
      • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
      • Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.
        • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
      • If also using sunscreen, always apply insect repellent after sunscreen.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

Treat clothing and gear with permethrin

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  • Use 0.5% permethrin to treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
    • Permethrin is an insecticide that kills or repels insects like mosquitoes and sand flies.
    • Permethrin-treated clothing provides protection after multiple washings.
    • Read product information to find out how long the protection will last.
  • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions.
  • Do not use permethrin products directly on skin.
  • Watch the CDC video How to Use Permethrin.

Keep mosquitoes out of your hotel room or lodging

  • Choose a hotel or lodging with air conditioning or window and door screens.
  • Use a mosquito net if you are unable to stay in a place with air conditioning or window and door screens or if you are sleeping outside.

Sleep under a mosquito net

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  • Sleep under a mosquito net if you are outside or when screened rooms are not available. Mosquitoes can live indoors and bite during the day and night.
  • Buy a mosquito net at your local outdoor store or online before traveling overseas.
  • Choose a mosquito net that is compact, white, rectangular, with 156 holes per square inch, and long enough to tuck under the mattress.
  • Permethrin-treated mosquito nets provide more protection than untreated nets.
    • Permethrin is an insecticide that kills mosquitoes and other insects.
    • To determine if you can wash a treated mosquito net, follow the label instructions.

If you are bitten by mosquitoes, avoid scratching the bites and apply over-the-counter anti-itch or antihistamine cream to relieve itching. See Mosquito Bite Symptoms and Treatment.

 

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If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. 

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.

 

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