For the last three hundred years the greater part of Africa south of the Sahara has suffered persistently from outbreaks of Trypanosomiasis disease, of "Sleeping Sickness." Some health officials consider it one of the highest priorities in public health.
For the last three hundred years the greater part of Africa south of the Sahara has suffered persistently from outbreaks of Trypanosomiasis disease, of "Sleeping Sickness." Some health officials consider it one of the highest priorities in public health. Although great progress has been made in recent years, developing new diagnostic tests and new methods for controlling the tsetse fly, there is still much work to be done before West Africa can be rid of the disease, which is so often fatal. West African states, together with the United Nations' development programme and World Health Organisation, are concentrating their efforts to develop controls against sleeping sickness at two research centres in the heartland of the Ivory Coast.
SYNOPSIS: This tropical disease has been dubbed the "Sleeping Sickness", because of the lethargy it produces in its victims. The Bouafle research centre has a medical clinic which observes patients afflicted with sleeping sickness, and an entomology laboratory where experts study the carrier of the disease, the tsetse fly.
The bite of the tsetse fly will produce fever and inflammation of the lymph nodes, as the parasite trypanosome gathers in the brain and spinal cord, causing inertia and coma. It leads inevitably to death, if untreated. One way of determining the degree of infection is through a spinal tap. Analysis of the spinal fluid, tells the doctor what type of treatment to use.
The rural population around Bouafle and Daloa -- the second key research centre, has been severely affected by sleeping sickness. Medical teams frequently visit villages like Tenkodogo, the examine residents for symptoms of the disease. The two research centres have been in operation since September last year, but it is still too early to tell how effective various treatments have been.
Many cases of sleeping sickness are detected by examining the lymph nodes to see if they are swollen.
Since the parasite trypanosome lives in the blood, another method of detection is a blood sample. In the past year and a half, researchers have discovered and treated one hundred and twenty cases of sleeping sickness in the three hundred and forty villages around the two centres. Some patients can be treated in the village, those more seriously infected are taken to hospital.
Another major effort in research is to eradicate the disease by destroying the tsetse fly. Entomologist, Doctor Felix Kuzoe, and a helicopter pilot are preparing to spray the Marahouex area with insecticides.
Spray jets are attached to the helicopter, and tested before take-off. The U.N.'s World Health Organisation is involved in this research.
Spraying pest killer is not always effective against the Palpalis species of the tsetse fly. However, helicopter spraying has proved quite effective in brush country against the Moristan species. An alternative method of destroying the fly is selective clearing of underbrush to eliminate its habitat. Entomologists also trap flies, which both reduces their numbers and allows researchers in the laboratory to experiment with methods of killing the flies.
But as long as the tsetse fly exists, so will sleeping sickness. Medical teams set up roadblocks in endemic areas and on the outskirts of Abidjan, the Ivory Coast capital, to detect cases of the disease.
Travellers are subjected to medical examinations, and if doctors find no trace of sleeping sickness symptoms, the person is given a clearance paper and allowed to continue his journey.
The disease-bearing tsetse fly infests about four million square miles (about 10 million 400,000 square kilometres) in tropical Africa. The research being done at Bouafle and Daloa represents a determined effort to fight and destroy sleeping sickness.