African Trypanosomiasis (African Sleeping Sickness)

What is African trypanosomiasis?

tsetse fly

African trypanosomiasis, also called sleeping sickness, is a disease caused by a parasite. People can get this parasite when an infected Tsetse fly bites them.

Symptoms include fatigue, high fever, headaches, and muscle aches. If the disease is not treated, it can cause death.

Who is at risk?

Tsetse flies are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Travelers spending a lot of time outdoors or visiting game parks in these areas can be bitten by tsetse flies and get infected.

What can travelers do to prevent African trypanosomiasis?

Information by Destination
woman in airport

Where are you going?

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

Prevent tsetse fly bites by taking the following steps:

  • 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, particularly the colors blue and black.
  • Avoid bushes during the day; the fly rests in bushes and will bite if disturbed.
  • Inspect vehicles for tsetse flies before entering. The flies are attracted to the motion and dust from moving vehicles.
  • Although, there is limited evidence that insect repellent works against tsetse flies, you should still use insect repellent as it can prevent other diseases spread by bug bites. Learn more about how to avoid other bug bites.

After Travel


If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. 

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.


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