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African Trypanosomiasis

How soon after infection will I have symptoms of African trypanosomiasis?

With East African trypanosomiasis, symptoms begin within 1 to 4 weeks of getting an infected tsetse fly bite.

With West African trypanosomiasis, symptoms occur within months to years after getting an infected tsetse fly bite.

What should I do if I think I may have African trypanosomiasis?

If you suspect that you may have East African trypanosomiasis, immediately consult with your health care provider who will order several tests to look for the parasite. Common tests include blood samples, a spinal tap, and skin biopsies, especially if you have a chancre.

If you suspect that you may have West African trypanosomiasis, see your health care provider who will order several tests to look for the parasite. Common tests include blood samples and a spinal tap. Your physician may also take a sample of fluid from swollen lymph nodes.

What is the treatment for African trypanosomiasis?

Medical treatment of East African trypanosomiasis should begin as soon as possible and is based on the infected person’s symptoms and laboratory results. Medication for the treatment of East African trypanosomiasis is available through the CDC. Hospitalization for treatment is necessary. Periodic follow-up exams that include a spinal tap are required for 2 years.

Medication for the treatment of West African trypanosomiasis is available. Hospitalized treatment of West African trypanosomiasis should begin as soon as possible and is based on the infected person’s symptoms and laboratory results. Hospitalization for treatment is necessary.  Periodic follow-up exams that include a spinal tap are required for 2 years.

Once infected, am I immune to African trypanosomiasis?

No one is immune from East African trypanosomiasis. Even if you had the disease once, you can get re-infected.

Who is at risk for contracting African trypanosomiasis?

East African trypanosomiasis is usually found in woodland and savannah areas away from human habitation. Tourists, hunters, game wardens, and other persons working or visiting game parks in East and Central Africa are at greatest risk for illness.

Tsetse flies can be found in Western and Central African forests, in areas of thick shrubbery and trees by rivers and waterholes. Risk of infection increases with the number of times a person is bitten by the tsetse fly. Therefore, tourists are not at great risk for contracting West African trypanosomiasis unless they are traveling and spending long periods of time in rural areas of Western and Central Africa.

Can I take a medication to prevent African trypanosomiasis?

There is neither a vaccine nor recommended drug available to prevent East or West African trypanosomiasis.

How can I prevent African trypanosomiasis and prevent other insect bites?

  1. Wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and pants. The tsetse fly can bite through thin fabrics, so clothing should be made of thick material.
  2. Wear khaki or olive colored clothing. The tsetse fly is attracted to bright colors and very dark colors.
  3. Use insect repellant. Though insect repellants have not proven effective in preventing tsetse fly bites, they are effective in preventing other insects from biting and causing illness.
  4. Use bed netting when sleeping.
  5. Inspect vehicles for tsetse flies before entering.
  6. Do not ride in the back of jeeps, pickup trucks or other open vehicles. The tsetse fly is attracted to the dust that moving vehicles and wild animals create.
  7. Avoid bushes. The tsetse fly is less active during the hottest period of the day. It rests in bushes but will bite if disturbed.

WebMD Public Information from the CDC

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