Never Heard of Black Fever? It’s Killing People All Over the World

Researchers focus on eradicating sand flies that transmit the disease since medical treatment is impractical.

A worker sprays DDT as part of a government of Bihar initiative to eradicate Black Fever in Raghopur, Bihar, India.

Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

You might expect a disease that can kill 95 percent of its victims would be on everyone’s radar. But in the case of visceral leishmaniasis, that’s not the case.

Known as Black Fever, the affliction remains on the World Health Organization’s list of neglected tropical diseases. Why? Well, because it affects “the poorest of the poor,” said David Poché, director of field research at Genesis Laboratories. Transmitted by adult sand flies that bite cattle and whose larvae feed on their feces, it affects 400,000 people every year and, even with available treatment, still kills as many as 30,000. (Malaria, by comparison, was contracted by 214 million people last year, killing 438,000.)

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