Health

Sleeping sickness is scary

AFRICA, Ivory Coast – Once the bane of sub-Saharan Africa, sleeping sickness is agonisingly close to being wiped out, but only if countries – and donors – keep up their guard, say scientists.

The disease, transmitted to humans by the tsetse fly, was once a curse in 30 countries.

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But a coordinated global fight to eradicate it has borne fruit, leading to a 95-percent fall in cases over the past 15 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Last year, the agency recorded only 977 cases, compared to a peak of some 300,000 in the 1990s. Its hope is that sleeping sickness will enter the history books by 2030.

Sleeping sickness – Ivory Coast – is caused by the trypanosoma parasite, which is transmitted to humans by the tsetse when it takes a blood meal.

The disease is fatal unless diagnosed and treated rapidly. Early symptoms are severe headaches and muscle aches and fever.

Sufferers feel lethargic and sleepy by day then awake and exhausted at night. Neuropsychiatric and sensory disorders follow, then a coma before death ensues within months or sometimes even years later.

“Sleeping sickness is scary – when someone has it, it makes them mad,” said Emile Gouribitiali, 56, a villager in central Ivory Coast whose mother and younger brother both fell ill.

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But scientists say this dreaded disease is on the ropes.

“After a century of fighting it, sleeping sickness is on the verge of being eradicated,” said Dr Dramane Kaba, an entomologist and director of the Pierre Richet Institute (IPR) at Bouake in central Ivory Coast.

“Sleeping sickness has almost stopped being a public health problem in Africa,” he said. “But we have to maintain our efforts.”

The institute, founded in 1970, specialises in insect-transmitted diseases including malaria, dengue, zika and chikungunya.

Source Sowetan Live

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