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10 Signs & Symptoms of African Sleeping Sickness

Kimberly Love

Medically decreed as African Trypanosomiasis, the name African Sleeping Sickness is the term most commonly used around the globe to describe this disease that by its name alone sounds like something out of a nightmarish fairytale; but in reality – it’s much worse.

In case you have never heard of this disease before, allow us to put your mind at ease, because the likelihood of you contracting it is just about impossible unless you find yourself trudging are sub-Saharan African anytime soon. That being said, though, this disease still affects tens of thousands of people, and while that is terrible in its own right, it is the way it does it that is so horrific. However, like anything in this world, in order to truly understand the terrifying effects of this disease, you need to learn a little bit more about it and where it comes from first.

Human African Trypanosomiasis (human because it can affect animals too), or African Sleeping Sickness is what is known as a vector-borne parasite, meaning that it comes from an organism that transmits pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another. In this instances, it is the tsetse fly who is the culprit, which, when infected, can pass the disease on to humans. These fly are found in 36 sub-Saharan African countries.

Typically, those affected by the disease live in rural areas of the continent and rely on agriculture, fishing and hunting in order to sustain life, which puts them at a greater risk of exposure.

There are two types of human African Trypanosomiasis; Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. The first type of the disease is also the most common, making up 98% of all cases and is found in 24 countries. The later, while less common, is equally as scary and impactful on the victim, and that is due to the nature of the disease.

A person can have contracted African Sleeping Sickness and not be aware of it for months and possibly even years later due to a lack of showing symptoms, however, in that lies the problem that when it is eventually discovered and symptoms have emerged, the disease has already progressed into an advanced stage.

African Sleeping Sickness threatens the lives and livelihood of millions of people, and while the disease is normally transmitted through a bite of an infect tsetse fly, there are other ways to get infected.

Mothers-to-child infection, mechanical infection (blood-sucking animal), accidental infection (open wound or infected needle), and even sexual transmitted are all potential ways for this disease to spread.

There are two very distinct stages of infection, and this is where it starts to get scary. In the first stage, the parasites begin to multiply in the subcutaneous tissues, blood and lymph nodes of the body. This stage usually results in more physical, but ultimately less noticeable symptoms.

In the second stage, the parasite crosses the blood-brain barrier and infects the central nervous system, also known as the neurological or meningo-encephalic stage. When this happens, the symptoms become much more noticeable and without treatment, eventually fatal.
So what’s so scary about it? Why the symptoms are!

So although the likelihood of you contracting African Sleeping Sickness isn’t great, we invite you to put yourself in the shoes of the millions of people who this nightmare is a reality, as we introduce to you the 10 most common and frightening side effects of African Trypanosomiasis, otherwise known as, African Sleeping Sickness.

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