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African Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness)


Tsetse fly glossina austeni
Oxford Scientific/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

What is African Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness)?:

African trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness) is a systemic disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted to humans by the bite of the Tsetse Fly. There are two types of African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) the West African transmitted by the T. b. gambiense and the East African variety transmitted by the T. b. rhodesiense. The disease is prevalent in tropical Africa only (north of South Africa and south of Algeria, Libya and Egypt).

How Can I Get African Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness)?:

You can get African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) through a bite from the Tsetse fly. The Tsetse fly is about the same size as a honeybee. They are quite aggressive and the bite hurts, speaking from personal experience. Tsetse flies inhabit rural areas only, living in the woodland and thickets of the savannah and the dense vegetation along streams. Watch out for them if you are on safari.

How Can I Avoid African Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness)?:

Since Tsetse flies are only found in rural areas, you can stick to the urban areas of tropical Africa, but that would hardly comprise a good holiday! Insect repellent and light clothing won't help since the Tsetse fly, will bite through everything. Local people will know where the Tsetse flies are likely to be, so ask them and avoid those areas. Tsetse flies are attracted to dark colors and cars. Before you get in to your vehicle, swat the large flies.

Symptoms of African Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness):

Signs and symptoms are initially nonspecific (fever, skin lesions, rash, edema, or lymphadenopathy); however, the infection progresses to meningoencephalitis. Symptoms generally appear within 1 to 3 weeks of infection. East African trypanosomiasis is more acute clinically, with earlier central nervous system involvement than in the West African form of the disease. Untreated cases are eventually fatal.

Treatment for African Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness):

Travelers who sustain tsetse fly bites and become ill with high fever or other manifestations of African trypanosomiasis should be advised to seek early medical attention. The infection can usually be cured by an appropriate course of anti-trypanosomal therapy. Travelers should be advised to consult an infectious disease or tropical medicine specialist.

More Health Information for Travelers to Africa
More Health Information for Travelers to Africa
More Health Information for Travelers to Africa
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