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African Trypanosomiasis (African Sleeping Sickness)

What is African trypanosomiasis?

African trypanosomiasis, also called African sleeping sickness, is a parasitic disease spread by the tsetse fly. Symptoms include fatigue, high fever, headaches, and muscle aches. If the disease is not treated, it can cause death.

Who is at risk?

Travelers who go to sub-Saharan Africa are at risk (see map). Travelers who plan to spend a lot of time outdoors or who go to game parks are at increased risk.

What can travelers do to prevent African trypanosomiasis?

tsetse fly

There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents African trypanosomiasis. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing tsetse fly bites.

Prevent tsetse fly bites:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    • Clothing fabric should be at least medium weight because the tsetse fly can bite through thin fabric.
  • Wear neutral-colored clothing. The tsetse fly is attracted to bright colors, very dark colors, metallic fabric, and the color blue.
  • Avoid bushes during the day, when the tsetse fly is less active. It rests in bushes and will bite if disturbed.
  • Inspect vehicles for tsetse flies before entering. The flies are attracted to moving vehicles.
  • Although there is limited evidence that insect repellent works against tsetse flies, you should use an appropriate insect repellent as directed.
  • Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
    man spraying insect repellent on his arm
    • DEET (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon)
    • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
    • IR3535  (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
  • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed:
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
    • Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself:
    • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
    • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
    • Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms.

If you feel sick and think you may have African trypanosomiasis:

Traveler Information

Clinician Information

 
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    (800-232-4636)
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
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