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Sleeping sickness is a disease prevalent in many African countries. It is caused by insects, tsetse flies, that are found mostly in still waters like lakes, swamps, and ponds. Recent findings of the World Health Organization prove the reduction of this disease transmission from 10,000 cases in 2009, 5,000 cases in 2014, and 2184 cases in 2016 (Moloo, 2017). This report will focus on sleeping sickness, its transmission, and control measures.
Sleeping Sickness Definition
Sleeping sickness, scientifically referred to as African Trypanosomiasis, is an illness caused by a parasite termed Trypanosoma brucei. The disease is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and affects a large number of the population, especially since it often goes undetected (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Despite the severity of the illness, there exist effective treatment approaches. Most of the cases of sleeping sickness are usually recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, northern parts of Uganda, Sudan, Angola, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi (Government of Canada, 2016). Its common symptoms include mood changes, fatigue, headache, and insomnia. In some cases, a skin rash may bother patients and serve as the reason to address for professional help.
In terms of its transmission, infections occur when one is bitten by a tsetse fly that has been infected with the causal protozoan parasite. Notably, wild animals and domesticated cattle are the primary reservoir hosts of Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense while the key reservoir host for Trypanosoma brucei gambiense is humans (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). In both classifications of the disease, it manifests itself in two stages. In the initial stage, the infected individual will exhibit symptoms such as headache, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and joint and muscle pains. Later on, it escalates into the second stage if left untreated. This phase affects the spinal cord and brain and may include complications such as disturbances of sleep, extreme lethargy, and abnormal changes in personality.
Although there is no vaccine developed for African Trypanosomiasis, there are certain control measures that are effective in reducing the possibility of contracting the disease. The residents of the areas with a high prevalence of sleeping sickness are often aware of the regions with a high infestation of tsetse flies. Bushbucks are the main reservoirs for bacteria, and individuals need to clear bushes near their homes and use insect traps to avoid woody areas where the insects may hibernate (Anderson et al., 2015). Insect repellants and appropriate clothing can also aid in reducing the possibility of being bitten by an infected tsetse fly. When maneuvering through woody areas that are highly infested with these insects, one should wear neutral-colored outfits that cover most of the body since the organisms are usually attracted to both dark and bright colors. It is recommended to make cloths of a medium-weight fabric since the flies can be capable of biting via lightweight attires (Aksoy, Buscher, Lehane, Solano, & Van Den Abbeele, 2017). Education of the population about the threats of sleeping sickness is an additional means to control and prevent the disease.
In recent years, the number of sleeping sickness cases has decreased due to the significant contributions made by such stakeholders as governments, non-governmental organizations, and locals. The spread of the disease has been stopped in some African countries like Kenya, Rwanda, and Namibia. However, more work and new efforts are required to promote public and private partnerships and contribute to disease elimination at different levels.
Aksoy, S., Buscher, P., Lehane, M., Solano, P., & Van Den Abbeele, J. (2017). Human African trypanosomiasis control: Achievements and challenges. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 11(4). Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Sleeping sickness. Web.
Government of Canada. (2016). African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness). Web.
Moloo, A. (2017). Eliminating sleeping sickness as a public health problem is on track. Web.