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:

man spraying insect repellent on his arm
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Find an EPA-registered insect repellent that’s right for you.
    • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • When using insect repellent on children
    • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
    • Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.
    • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.

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

Traveler Information

Clinician Information