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Freed hostages raise awareness of jungle malady

July 3, 2008 |  6:10 pm

Jerichobuttons2 Those three Americans, who were among the group of hostages recently rescued by Colombian special forces, raised awareness of a couple of strange terms upon their jubilant return to the United States: The first would be the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the group of leftist guerrillas who captured them in 2003; and the second would be Leishmaniasis.

What the heck is that, you say?

It's a pretty nasty disease caused by protozoan parasites that get into your system via the bite of the sand fly, which can be found in Southern Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America all the way up to, gulp, Texas. There's effective treatment for the skin ulcers it causes (see photo) but no vaccines to prevent it, at least not yet.

Just one more thing to worry about on your next camping trip to the tropics.

--Liam Gowing

Photo of leishmaniasis sufferer is public domain (courtesy Wikipedia / Library of Congress)