Kala Azar: Causes, types, symptoms and treatment | Health

In the last few weeks, there has been a rise in the number of Kala Azhar cases in West Bengal. 65 cases of black fever have been reported in 11 districts of the state including Darjeeling, Malda, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Kalimpong. In light of the widespread prevalence of Kala Azhar, Dr Ajay Aggarwal – Director and HOD, Internal Medicine, Noida, Fortis Hospital Noida spoke to HT Lifestyle and explained the causes and types of this disease. Kala Azar or black fever is a disease caused by infection with Leishmania parasites. It is transmitted by the female sand fly – Phlebotomus argentipes. It is also known as visceral leishmaniasis or black fever or dum-dum fever.

Also Read: West Bengal: 65 black fever cases reported from 11 districts


It is caused by chronic infection of the reticuloendothelial system. Infections range from asymptomatic to progressively symptomatic. In Kala Azar, the incubation period is usually 2-4 months. Dr Ajay Agarwal explained that if not treated properly, the patient becomes fatal after 6 months to 2 years.


Cutaneous leishmaniasis: This is another form of kala-azar, which causes skin lesions – mainly ulcers on exposed parts of the body, which cause scarring and serious disability. Lesions are usually painless but can be painful, especially if the open sores become infected with bacteria. Types of cutaneous leishmaniasis:

Mucosal Leishmaniasis: In this type of cutaneous leishmaniasis, infection occurs when the parasites spread from the skin to the naso-oropharyngeal mucosa.


Dr. Surendra Kumar, Internal Medicine, Accord Super Specialty Hospital, Faridabad, points out the symptoms of this disease – “The most common presentation of Kala Azhar or VL is high-grade fever with chills and rigors, which may persist for weeks; followed by massive splenomegaly and hepatomegaly, abdominal distention and leg cramps. Swelling, which can cause skin pigmentation. Kala Azar can mimic other febrile diseases like malaria, typhoid fever, TB and other fungal infections.”


Treatment of Kala Azar is by liposomal AMB – the drug of choice for immunocompromised patients. Other treatment options are available such as paromomycin, miltefosine and multidrug therapy.

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