sleeping sickness (African trypanosomiasis)
is African sleeping sickness?
African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness is
caused by trypanosomes, which are parasites. It is transmitted to humans through
the bite of the tsetse fly. The disease is found in tropical Africa but the
East African form of the disease is more serious than the West African variety.
Tsetse flies live in woodlands and thickets and
in the dense vegation near streams. The risk of contracting this disease is
low, particularly in urban areas. However, people visiting game parks and remote
areas need to take precautions.
can African sleeping sickness be prevented?
There is no vaccine available to prevent this disease.
Unfortunately insect repellants are not effective and tsetse flies can bite
through light clothes. Local knowledge will be useful in helping to avoid areas
where tsetse fly are prevalent. Other methods of protection include wearing
wrist and ankle-length clothes of heavier fabrics in colours that blend into
the environment. Moving vehicles and dark clothing attract the tsetse fly.
What are the symptoms?
A bite by the tsetse fly is often painful and can
develop into a red sore. Symptoms occur within one to four weeks of infection.
These include fever, skin lesions, rashes and swollen lymph glands initially.
However, this disease progresses to meningoencephalitis.
is African sleeping sickness treated?
be started as soon as possible and is based on the infected person's symptoms
and laboratory results. Hospitalisation is necessary for treatment. The drug
regimen depends on the infecting species and the stage of infection. Periodic
follow-up by your medical advisor is required for two years.
Your GP or vaccination centre will be able to
advise you on the precautions necessary for travel to various regions. Travel
vaccination information is also available at www.cdc.gov/travel/.
A useful Irish source of information is the Tropical Medical Bureau, www.tmb.ie.