War diseases revealed by the social media: massive leishmaniasis outbreak in the Syrian Spring
© Alasaad; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received: 1 March 2013
Accepted: 2 April 2013
Published: 12 April 2013
Social media introduce pivotal changes to communication between individuals, organizations and communities. A clear example of the power of social media is the spread of the revolutionary outbreaks in the Arabic countries during 2011, where people used Facebook, YouTube and Skype to communicate, organise meetings and protest actions. Here I report how Doctor-Activists use these social media as an alarm system for ‘war disease’ outbreaks in the Syrian Spring. Social media are used as an alarm system to attract the attention of international organizations, which should assume their responsibilities and play their part in controlling the outbreak of such war diseases.
KeywordsSocial Media Facebook YouTube Syrian Arab Republic Cutaneous leishmaniasis Leishmania tropica complex Arab Spring Revolution Deir Ezzor
Social media are usually defined as the means of interactions in which people create, share and exchange ideas and information based on virtual communities and networks . Nowadays, mobile and web-based technologies are the motor of social media, in which people create interactive platforms where they discuss, co-create, share and modify content with a user-generated character. In this way, social media introduce pivotal changes to communication between individuals, organizations and communities .
Despite some criticism of social media , they have mainly positive effects: learn and explore, advertise oneself, form friendships and even document memories. A clear example of the power of social media is the spread of the revolutionary outbreaks in the Arabic World during 2011, where people used Facebook, YouTube and Skype to demand freedom, organise meetings, protest actions etc.[4, 5].
Before the Syrian Spring began, Syrian activists used all available means of communication to demand freedom, democracy and their right to live in dignity. During the revolution, they have used these means to communicate attacks on civil populations and are now using these same means to publicize the grave health situation that they are facing, with a lack of hospitals, doctors and medicines. In this Letter, I report for the first time, how social media are being used by Doctor-Activists, as an alarm system of war diseases outbreaks, namely cutaneous leishmaniasis.
Old World cutaneous leishmaniasis (oriental sore), is produced by leishmanias belonging to the Leishmania tropica complex, when the bite of an infected sandfly Phlebotomus papatasi, or closely related species, liberates promastigotes into the skin [6, 7]. Leishmaniasis is endemic in 98 countries on 5 continents. Syria is one of the most affected countries, with the highest estimated case counts, with 22,882 cases per year (up to the estimation between 2004–2008) , with the first occurrence of cutaneous leishmaniasis documented as early as 1745 . The common local name is "Aleppo boil".
This letter highlights the positive effect of the social media as an alarm system used by Doctor-Activist to report war disease outbreaks. However, these social media are still far from describing the full epidemiological study or treatment efficacy, since they lack professional surveillance and vital records. They are, however, an efficient means to attract the attention of the international organizations, which should assume their responsibilities and play their part in controlling the outbreak of such diseases.
Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for publication of this report and any accompanying images. For children images, written informed consent was obtained from the patient’s guardian/parent/next in keen for publication of this report and any accompanying images.
Thanks to anonymous Doctor-Activists and Media-Activists, who provided the video and picture materials. Inkad, Al-Susa and Al-Baguz Charity Organizations are thanked for providing drugs for leishmaniasis treatment. Special thanks to the Local Counsels in the studied towns for providing data on leishmaniasis epidemiology and treatment.
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