I’ve written twice before on this blog about an emerging disease in Central America called Chronic Kidney Disease. In my original post I described how in some communities in the region between a quarter and seventy percent of men may suffer from the disorder, which is a truly staggering number. In a subsequent post, I argued that something mysterious was happening in Central America, because the disease appears to be something new. While some people argue that the illness takes place because of pesticide exposure or dehydration, this argument seems problematic to me. If this is true, why do we not see a similar illness in the Caribbean or the Atlantic coast of Brazil? That is why in this post I suggested changing the name of the disorder to EKD, so as to reflect the disease’s novelty. The fact that the illness focuses on the Pacific Coast of Central America, mainly affects men, but also seems to impact workers outside the sugar cane industry, all seems significant to me.
Although I haven’t posted on this topic recently, I’ve continued to follow news from the region. Recently, the Batahola Volunteers in Nicaragua had a blog post that talked about a confrontation with police, which led to the death of a man named Juan de Dios Cortes. He had been suffering from CKD/EKD, and had been taking part in a labor protest outside of the Nicaragua Sugar Company, to demand that the company help to care for its sick employees. He was killed by a police bullet, and at least one other protester was injured. Afterwards, two of the Batahola volunteers visited with the sugar-cane workers to learn about their grievances and their experience with the illness. Erika Coe wrote a beautifully written piece based on these conversations, which conveyed the social impact of the disease in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua, one of the worst hit communities. So far, 7,982 people have died from the illness in the region, and the disease shows no signs of waning. Although journalists and others have sought to bring international attention to CKD (EKD), what is still needed is a large-scale, well-funded multi-national epidemiological study, far greater in size than anything attempted to date.
Shawn Smallman, Portland State University