Efforts to eliminate African trypanosomiasis continue
Efforts to eliminate the disease known as African trypanosomiasis are continuing to show strong progress, according to WHO. African trypanosomiasis, also called ‘sleeping sickness’, is endemic in 36 sub-Saharan African countries.
The progress aligns with WHO’s 2030 road map targets for the control, elimination, and eradication of neglected tropical diseases.
Human African trypanosomiasis is caused by parasites of the Trypanosoma genus. It is transmitted by infected tsetse flies, which are found in sub-Saharan Africa, and has two principle forms, known as gambiense and rhodesiense. Trypanosoma brucei gambiense accounts for around 97% of reported cases of the disease. Equatorial Guinea has now been validated by WHO as being the latest country to eliminate the gambiense form of the disease as a public health problem within its borders.
The general incidence of the gambiense form of the disease has reduced sharply this century, with 750 cases being reported in 11 endemic countries in 2021, a figure representing a 95% reduction of cases, compared to the figure of 26,095 cases in 2001.
Symptoms of African trypanosomiasis include fatigue, high fever, headaches, and muscle aches. Further, if the disease is not treated, it can cause death. People who are bitten by a tsetse fly can get the parasite which causes this disease.
Diagnosis and treatment of African trypanosomiasis is complex, and requires specifically skilled staff. There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents the disease, rather, those living in endemic regions or travelling to them can protect themselves by preventing bites from tsetse flies. This can be achieved through covering exposed skin, avoiding bushes during the day, and inspecting vehicles for flies before entering.
Those most exposed to the fly and the disease live in rural areas, and depend on agriculture, fishing, animal husbandry, or husbandry.
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