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NAIROBI, 30 December 2010 (IRIN) – The influx of returnees from the north to Southern Sudan ahead of an independence referendum scheduled for 9 January 2011 is raising fears of a more widespread outbreak of visceral leishmaniasis, a disease which can be lethal and is endemic in parts of the greater Upper Nile region, says a World Health Organization (WHO) official in Southern Sudan.

Leishmaniasis comes in several forms and usually manifests itself in skin sores. Visceral leishmaniasis, a severe form of the disease in which parasites have migrated to the vital organs, is also known askala-azar.

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