Sleeping sickness is an endemic infectious disease caused by a parasite known as trypanosome. Tsetse flies, found in Africa, transmit the disease. As mentioned above, a major symptom of the disease is uncontrollable sleep, and hence, it is named so. Although initially the symptoms are minor, they can worsen over the time if no treatment is undertaken. In that case, it can even lead to death.
Now, not every tsetse fly carries the parasite. But, one needs to be careful as there is a high risk of contracting sleeping sickness in case the fly bites. The bite is extremely painful and results in red and swollen nodule on the spot. Sleeping sickness is found only in Africa, and is extremely rare in other parts of the world. However, if a person has traveled or lived in Africa for sometime, there are high chances of contracting this disease.
Signs and Symptoms
Sleepiness and disturbances in sleeping patterns is the major symptom of this disorder. But, it is of peculiar type. The person feels very drowsy during the day and suffers from insomnia during the night. Other symptoms include:
- Uncontrollable urge to sleep
- Mood swings
- Swollen nodule where the fly has bitten
- Swollen nodes all over the body
In extreme cases, meningoencephalitis i.e., inflammation of the meninges of the brain and the spinal cord may occur. In later stages, the person may even go into coma. It is very difficult to treat the disease in this stage. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the symptoms as early as possible.
It is recommended to consult the doctor immediately if any of these symptoms are observed. If sleeping sickness is not treated at proper time, it can lead to severe complications like cardiac failure, other diseases related to the brain, and even death. The doctor may undertake tests like the blood smear, complete blood count (CBC), albumin and globulin levels, and a complete physical examination to diagnose the disease. Medications and drugs are helpful in treating this disease.
There have been several measures undertaken by the government and health organizations to control and eradicate the parasite causing the disease. There is no vaccination for sleeping sickness. Therefore, it is essential for people to follow certain precautions when traveling and living in Africa. People should be careful about insect and fly bites, and should stay away from places that are suspected to be the dwelling places of tsetse flies. Wearing long-sleeved garments is recommended to prevent insect bites.
When traveling, it is always better to have knowledge of local diseases and their symptoms in order to protect oneself against them.
Disclaimer: This article is meant only to provide information. It is not to be substituted for doctor's advice.