Baghdad Boils


The kind you get on your face.



George Bush (above) with leishmaniasis, the Baghdad Boil disease. (Full disclosure: Bush is pictured with tegumentary leishmaniasis, not the cutaneous variety that causes the classic boil.)

Yes, Iraq is a sore subject — after five years and 4,000 U.S. deaths, it can’t be anything else — but things could be worse for George W. Bush. He could be suffering from “Baghdad boils,” as are hundreds and hundreds of Iraqi kids and U.S. soldiers and all kinds of other people over there.

The good news is that the boils aren’t usually fatal. However, they do leave scars. Everything about the insane invasion of Iraq in 2003 leaves scars.

Combine the poor sanitation and stagnant pools of water, and you’ve got a feast for sand fleas and sand flies. War-torn Iraq is broken down when it comes to furnishing clean, fresh water and medical supplies, so outbreaks of leishmaniasis (the proper name for the boils) are common.

Iraqi dermatologist Mohammed Sahib, swamped with cases at a hospital, took a break last month to briefly describe the boil problem to IRIN News:

“Cutaneous leishmaniasis is not fatal, but can cause up to 200 facial lesions and crater-shaped sores, leaving patients seriously disfigured. Kalaazar can kill, and causes fever, weight loss, anaemia, and swelling of the spleen and liver,” Sahib said.

Children are particularly at risk because they typically have weaker immune systems than adults, he said. A single sand fly bite can be enough to transmit the disease.

Local health authorities were still suffering from a shortage of medicines to treat the disease, he said: “The medicines are not enough, as the disease is spreading and in addition to medical treatment there should be insecticide spraying campaigns to kill the sand flies.”