April 10, 2005

Iraqi Dermatologist Confirms Outbreak of “Dangerous” Skin Disease

Text of report by Shayma al-Jash'ami headlined "Health Ministry confirms spread of dangerous Bahjat disease" published by Iraqi newspaper Al-Furat on 7 April

In its follow-up to the current outbreak of "Bahjat disease", this newspaper interviewed Dr Sarmad Adnan al-Hashimi, a dermatologist at the Baghdad Educational Hospital, who explained that this disease results from inflammation of the skin or the eyes' blood vessels. He added that there were several theories to explain the causes of the disease, the most important of which were the immunological theory and the microbial factors theory.

The immunological theory attributes the disease to a malfunction in the body's immune system, while the microbial theory attributes the disease to bacterial and viral infection. In addition to that, the genetic factor is also important because the disease may appear in many individuals who are related by blood.

Al-Hashimi explained that the symptoms of the disease include oral ulceration in 25 to 75 per cent of the cases, especially in the early stages of the infection, which may increase to 80 per cent in later stages, the appearance of ulceration on sexual organs in 84 per cent of the infected cases, and other symptoms such as inflamed eyes and skin. He added that other systems in the body may also be affected by the disease, such as the digestive and nervous systems, and arthritis.

Regarding the disease's diagnosis, Dr Al-Hashimi said: "The disease is clinically diagnosed by basically its oral symptoms, the inflamed sexual organs, eyes and skin, and by pathological tests."

Asked about the possibility of recovery from this dangerous disease, Dr Al-Hashimi said: "It is a chronic disease; thus patients with disease do not recover. However, early diagnosis and treatment of the disease is recommended. He explained that there is a shortage of medication for this disease, adding that the treatment of the disease depended on the symptoms. For example, skin symptoms were classified from simple to medium cases. Some medicines such as cortisone, antibiotics and antiseptics, which are externally used, and some other oral medicines could be prescribed for simple cases. However, for complicated cases a chemical treatment with methutrksit [as transliterated] may be applied.

He added that 15 patients with this disease sought treatment in the hospital every day, that is, 450 patients per month. The number of registered patients is between 400 to 500 patients.