What is Leishmaniasis?

Leishmaniasis (often called “lesh”) is a tropical skin infection found in Panama. In Panama, Leshmaniasis exists in a natural reservoir of sloths and anteaters and is then passed to humans by female sandflies (chitres). Once infected, a small red bump will appear on the skin, turn into a blister, and later break open. The infected sore slowly grows and is resistant to traditional first aid treatments. The Nbobe sometimes fight the infection with topical treatments, covering it in battery acid and other compounds in the hopes of killing it.

A series of 21 daily injections generally kills the infection, but quick identification is the key. If left untreated the initial skin infection can spread, spawning lesions throughout the body (on the skin, in the mouth, and internally on organs), untreated lesh can be fatal.

It’s important that you quickly identify non-healing sores as suspicious and seek treatment. The best way to protect yourself from lesh and other insect transmitted diseases is to avoid being bitten; use bug spray, cover exposed skin, and use fans with airspeeds of 5+ MPH to keep insects away.

Until next time, fair winds and safe travels!


The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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