Leishmaniasis is listed as one of the eight neglected tropical diseases by the World Health Organization and the number of cases in endemic areas has seen a sharp rise in the past decade. More alarmingly, reports have shown that leishmaniasis is spreading to non-endemic areas of the world due to co-infection with HIV. In Sri Lanka, leishmaniasis is considered as a notifiable disease from 2008 and has seen a rising trend of incidence since then. This is the first study describing the burden, seasonal variation and spatial distribution of leishmaniasis in Sri Lanka since the disease has been included as a notifiable disease.
Data on health statistics from 2009 to 2016 were obtained from published databases maintained by the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka. Climatic data for Sri Lanka were obtained from the Department of Meteorology and the populations in administrative districts were obtained from the Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka. Descriptive spatiotemporal analysis, correlation between leishmaniasis incidence and climatic variables were analyzed using SPSS statistical software.
The total number of people reported with leishmaniasis during the study period was 8487. Cutaneous leishmaniasis is the prominent form in Sri Lanka while few visceral and muco-cutaneous cases were reported. Although leishmaniasis patients were identified from all 25 districts in the island, almost 90% of the total caseload was reported from Anuradhapura, Hambantota, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala and Matara districts. The highest number of patients was reported from the Anuradhapura district and the highest incidence per 100,000 persons was reported from the Hambantota district. The disease has a seasonal trend, a peak of leishmaniasis occur in July to September in the north-central region and in October to December in the southern region. Maximum temperature, humidity and wind speed are significantly associated climatic variables with leishmaniasis in endemic regions.
Leishmaniasis is an emerging public health problem in north-central and southern Sri Lanka. Public awareness programs for the prevention and control of the disease in endemic regions are essential to reduce the incidence of leishmaniasis.