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What is Sleeping Sickness?

Posted On March 3, 2015
March 03, 2015

At the time, you thought it was so great that you would finally be able to cross going on an African safari off your bucket list. Zebras, elephants, gazelles wandered up to your jeep and your accommodations at night quite literally allowed you to sleep in the treetops. But unfortunately, what came after the trip of a lifetime was not so wonderful. In fact, it almost proved to be the death of you. While overseas, you managed to contract sleeping sickness.

Sleeping Sickness Explained

When you think of sleep and sickness at the same time, it is probably in relation to knowing how much you desire and need to sleep when you are under the weather. But interestingly enough, there is a disease known as sleeping sickness. Caused by two germs carried by tsetse flies, Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense and Trypanosomoa brucei gambiense, sleeping sickness infects the body quite rapidly via the bloodstream.

Who is vulnerable to getting sleeping sickness? If you live in the United States, not to worry, only people who have travelled to or lived in certain parts of Africa, mostly the Democratic Republic of the Congo, seem to develop sleeping sickness. According to the World Health Organization, 70 million people live in areas native to the tsetse fly.

Developing after a variable incubation period of days to weeks, the symptoms of sleeping sickness are very similar to meningitis as one of the hallmark signs is swelling of the brain. Some others are:

  • Red and swollen bump at site of tsetse fly bite
  • Weakness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mood swings, especially being anxious
  • Sleepiness during the day and insomnia at night
  • Confusion

In order to confirm a diagnosis after a physical exam, certain tests are needed such as cerebrospinal fluid test, complete blood count, lymph node aspiration and blood smear.

It is extremely important to seek and be treated for sleeping sickness. Once the central nervous system is affected, a cure for sleeping sickness is not possible. If left untreated for 6 months, death can occur. However, if treated early with medication such as melarsoprol, pentamidine, efkornithine or suramin, prognosis is excellent.

If you have been diagnosed or suspect you might have sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

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