Friday, February 10, 2012


Sedge Wren, Cerro de Hula, Honduras

I usually write about birds or butterflies here in these pages, and occasionally about bats, but not very often about me. However, the previous entry, Frederick's story, has a little tail, and it concerns me. If it wasn't for him, I would never have gone to the Alonso Suazo Medical Center in Tegucigalpa, where last week one of the doctors noticed a skin lesion on my right hand, and asked me "what is that, and how long have you had that?"

When I answered her that I didn't know what it was, and that I've had it for almost two years, she said: "It looks like possible leishmaniasis. You should have that checked out. Why don't you go to the laboratory here on the third floor."

This I did, but it was Friday afternoon, and they had already closed. I was asked to come back Monday. 

That Monday, a skin biopsy was carried out. The next day, I went back there and was informed that I had tested positive for leishmaniasis.

Leishmaniasis is a tropical disease spread by the bite of the female sandfly. There is visceral leishmaniasis and cutaneous leishmaniasis. The former is more dangerous; I have the latter. If left untreated, this disease is often fatal, for it is a parasite that attacks the immune system. Another disease comes along and the body fails to engage its immune system, and you die. World-wide, about 60,000 people, mostly infants, die from visceral leishmaniasis each year. Treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis, however, is often successful and the cure is complete. 

The skin lesion on my hand is where the sandfly bit me. Hopefully, it will disappear over the next three weeks.

Treatment here in Honduras consists of a series of 40 injections over a period of 20 days. Since I live about 45 minute drive from that medical center in Tegucigalpa, I researched the possibility to have these shots delivered by my local medical center, but it turns out that they are not adequately staffed to make that happen. So the next two and a half weeks (I started yesterday, on my birthday), I will be driving to Tegucigalpa and back every day for these shots. It is important that I follow the regimen without missing a day. The shots are not painful. On the 17th of February, I will have the good fortune to receive not two but three shots: the last one in the anti-rabies treatment, plus the two for leishmaniasis. Meanwhile, I will continue working here, monitoring bird and bat mortality at a wind farm in Honduras.

This is the second tropical disease that I've had now. I had dengue fever back in 2009 in Veracruz. That was no picnic, but ultimately harmless. (For me, that is. Not for infants and the elderly.) Both diseases were contracted through insect bites. The lesson here is that a mosquito bite in the tropics is not always just that, and that I need to be more pro-active regarding insect repellence, and more careful to have lesions or other oddities looked into.

Next time, I plan to write again about birds. We have what appears to be a large population of Sedge Wrens up in Cerro de Hula, where we live. Since a few weeks, these birds have been singing everywhere, and I've recorded several of them. Xeno-canto has a huge collection of Sedge Wren recordings, but none from Central America.

Finally, I want to advise my readers that I am temporarily without internet, and have to grab whatever little bit of wireless I can get at fast food restaurants in Tegucigalpa these days. If you write me, please be patient. I will reply, but it may take me a while.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello John, goodluck withe the shots. I hope the spot disappears! Mascha