Sleeping sickness is brought about by Trypanosoma brucei. The parasite is spread to humans via the bite of the tsetse fly. When bitten, a reddened sore develops. This is followed by other symptoms such as fatigue, fever, rashes and joint or muscle pain. As the condition progresses, excessive sleepiness along with other neurological irregularities might arise.
What are the signs?
It is important to note that there are 2 phases of sleeping sickness among humans. If an infected tsetse fly bites a human, the trypanosomes or parasites are injected into the lymphatic system which later enter the bloodstream.
A reddened sore might form at the site of the bite. This is the initial phase of the infection and can last for a few weeks to a month with the following signs:
- Fever and sweating
- Intense headache
- Enlarged lymph nodes all over the body
- Aching joints and muscles
- Anxiety and fatigue
Once the parasites move into the central nervous system, the condition has progressed to the second phase with the following signs:
- Sleep disruptions at night time
- Sleepiness or drowsiness throughout the day
- Personality changes
- Difficulty walking
- Mental deterioration
- Progressing irritability and confusion
Management of sleeping sickness
The treatment for sleeping sickness is based on the parasite responsible for the infection and current phase.
There are 4 forms of medications that are generally used in managing the condition. Remember though that even after treatment, an individual with sleeping sickness should undergo periodic testing of the cerebrospinal fluid for up to 2 years to monitor for possible recurrence.