SRI JAYAWARDENEPURA KOTTE, Sri Lanka, March 15 (UPI) -- Doctors in Sri Lanka say an "unknown plague" involving chronic kidney disease of unknown cause is putting families at risk and young people are migrating.
Chronic kidney disease of unknown aetiology, or cause, known as CKDu, is becoming a health crisis, with hospitals in the country's most affected province linking 80 percent of patients' deaths to kidney failure, reported the Integrated Regional Information Networks, a service of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Scientists have not been able to identify a cause of the kidney failure which has resulted in many no longer being able to work, some constantly hospitalized, some on dialysis and some dead.
An analysis of hospital records in the most affected areas showed men 40 and older seem to be most at risk.
A 48-year-old farmer, who did not want his name made public, said he has undergone treatment for CKDu for the past six years. He takes 48 tablets a day and requires constant hospitalization. His wife suffers from the same disease.
The husband and wife can no longer farm, but their two sons do and work as unskilled laborers to help make ends meet. However, the sons have no future because of their parents' illness. They cannot marry because other families fear their daughters might also come down with the disease. As a result, some young people have moved away from the farms.
Officials at the World Health Organization estimates there are some 20,000 CKDu patients being treated in the hardest hit province, where the disease was first reported in 2000. The renal failure death rate is 19 a month, IRIN said.
Some believe the cause of the illness is pesticides and last year the government banned the importation of three pesticides -- chlopyrifos, propanil and vabarly.
However, research by the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi indicated water contamination as a possible source.
Oliver Illeperuma of Peradeniya University in Sri Lanka's Central Province, told IRIN: "There are multiple causes identified through different research attempts. It is important to treat this as a growing health crisis and increase preventive programs."