The African country Republic of Togo became the first country in the continent to eradicate human African Trypanosomiasis or 'Sleeping Sickness'. The announcement was made by WHO.
What is Sleeping Sickness?
The disease, also called Human African Trypanosomiasis is an extremely fatal tropical disease. It is caused by protozoan parasites that belong to the genus Trypanosoma group. A bite of an infected tsetse fly also called Glossina Genus, spreads the disease, as they carry this microbe.
The disease is native to the African continent. The bite explodes into red sores, and in a couple of weeks, the person experiences fever, aching muscles, headaches, and irritability. There are 2 variety of diseases found. First is caused by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. It is found in 24 countries in Africa. The second form is due to Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. It is found in 13 countries.
Advance stages of the diseases can also include damage to the central nervous system, change in personality, confusion, seizures, difficulty in talking and walking, and many more. If not treated, the patient could die.
The Efforts and Approach
The main objective was to control the diseases from spreading. Major steps taken were to reduce the reserves of this disease, eliminate the presence of tsetse flies. Screening of people was done to help find the person at the early stages and start the treatment. Difficulties can be avoided if the disease is identified in the early stages.
Dr. Meoti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said that this was a milestone in the history of the country, and called Togo a pathfinder. She congratulated the government and the people for their constant efforts which led to the elimination of the disease. The diseases are found in 36 countries in the African continent, which are part of the sub-Saharan region. The rural population is the most exposed and vulnerable population, who often depend on hunting, animal husbandry, agriculture, and fishing for their livelihood.
It Took 2 Decades to Reach This Point
The efforts kept going on for almost 20 years. Constant surveillance, screening, treatment, and the commitment by the political institutions are commendable. In 2000, the control measures came into action. The local government established hospitals in Mango, Tchama, which are highly vulnerable. Public health workers and officials have been working since then to prevent the spread of the disease.
The country first applied for the certification of elimination back in 2018. The request was thereafter studied by the experts of WHO. The studied each area and gave recommendations. The support from the government organizations, along with support from WHO led to global collaboration. Medicines were donated, local communities were educated and helped, tools were provided to avoid the spread, and at last, the result was fruitful. Countries like Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana have also started the validation process now.
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Author: Subhasri Banerjee
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