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Chad eliminates sleeping sickness caused by tsetse fly bites

Chad eliminates sleeping sickness caused by tsetse fly bites

Chad eliminates sleeping sickness caused by tsetse fly bites

Chad has eliminated human African trypanosomiasis, a fly-borne tropical disease also known as sleeping sickness, the World Health Organization recently announced.

This elimination marks a milestone in the WHO programme focusing on neglected tropical diseases. WHO hopes to eliminate these diseases, most of which disproportionately affect poor and rural populations, in 100 countries. Chad is the 51st country to have achieved elimination of such a disease, WHO said in a press release.

Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is caused by parasites and is transmitted through the bite of the tsetse fly. The disease can take months or more than a year to progress, first causing flu-like symptoms and then moving to the central nervous system. HAT can cause behavioral changes and disrupt sleep, triggering aggression and other symptoms. If left untreated, it is almost always fatal. Since there is no vaccine to prevent the disease, eradication efforts generally focus on controlling tsetse flies and preventing fly bites.

The disease occurs in two forms, named after the type of parasite that causes it. The gambiense form is the most common, accounting for about 92 percent of cases. Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana and Chad have so far eradicated the disease. The other variant, the rhodesiense form, has been eliminated in Rwanda.

HAT was much less common in the past, with only 4,435 cases reported in Africa in 1964. But the disease re-emerged in the second half of the 20th century, as emerging African nations suffered from war and political and social instability, with the WHO recording 37,991 new cases per year in 1998.

According to WHO, Chad has eliminated TAH thanks to improved surveillance, testing and pest control. “This achievement is the result of years of dedicated efforts by our health workers, communities and partners,” said Abdel Modjid Abderahim Mahamat, Chad’s health minister, in the press release. “We will continue this momentum to address other neglected tropical diseases and ensure a healthier future for all Chadians.”