Sunday, October 4, 2009

What is sleeping sickness?

Sleeping sickness is a very serious disease that attacks men and animals in Africa.
It is an infection caused by parasites called “trypanosomes.” These parasites, or germs, are carried by the tsetse fly which is common in many parts of central Africa.
The tsetse fly may pick up the parasites when it bites a sick man or animal. The trypanosomes enter the fly’s stomach and begin to multiply. They then pass through the salivary glands which supply juice to the fly’s mouth. Here they develop into forms which can infect man.
When the fly bites a man, the parasites are injected beneath the skin. A tiny sore spot appears. During the next three weeks trypanosomes begin to circulate in the blood. About this time the infected man begins to have fever that comes and goes. Often, the skin breaks out in a rash. The brain becomes slightly swollen. In some parts of Africa the infection sometimes stops here and the sick man usually recovers.
But in Rhodesia and Malawi, the disease takes a more serious form. Within a year, the patient begins to show signs that his brain has become affected. He develops severe headaches. He becomes excited very easily. He begins to act in an uncontrollable way.
Then comes to the next stage, He becomes very quiet. And finally, he goes to sleep and stays asleep. He is in a coma, which means he is unconscious. He still has fever. Finally, he becomes paralyzed, his body wastes away, and he dies.
The reason the person becomes unconscious is that an infection takes place in a very important part of the body the brain and men-inges, which is the covering of the brain. There are many things that may cause an infection, or inflammation, of the brain. Such a condition is called “encephalitis.” African sleeping sickness is really a severe form of encephalitis.
By the way, the tsetse fly does not pass on the germ of this disease to its offspring. So sleeping sickness would die out-if there were no sick animals or men for the fly to bite!