Volcanic Minerals, Not Worms, Caused Disease Outbreak in Uganda

The First Uganda National Field Epidemiology Conference held in Kampala
October 16, 2015
Group photo of Participants after the graduation ceremony of first cohort of the Frontline FETP
2nd Graduation for Field Epidemiology Fellows of PHFP
January 19, 2018
Volcanic Minerals_Not Worms_Caused Disease Outbreak in Uganda

Medical detectives in western Uganda recently discovered that the wrong culprit had been blamed for an outbreak of crippling elephantiasis — legs so swollen that they resemble those of an elephant.

As it turned out, one rare, neglected tropical disease had been mistaken for another.

In most affected countries, elephantiasis is caused by worms spread to humans by mosquito bites. The worms nest in lymph nodes, growing into big balls that stretch the glands and prevent lymph fluid from being pumped out of the legs.

The limbs swell, develop ulcerating sores and eventually rot. About 40 million people are disfigured or disabled by the disease, called lymphatic filariasis, the World Health Organization estimates.

In 2015, the Ugandan health ministry was told that an outbreak of elephantiasis was emerging in Kamwenge, in western Uganda. A team from the ministry, the W.H.O. regional office and Makerere University went to investigate.

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