Information for travelers to Africa about African trypanosomiasis

Tsetse Fly, Photo: Ray Wilson

The CDC has been notified of two travelers diagnosed with African trypanosomiasis.  Both travelers were participating in hunting and safari activities in Africa, but acquired trypanosomiasis in different countries.  A person can get African trypanosomiasis if he or she is bitten by a tsetse fly infected with the Trypanosoma parasite.  Symptoms of the disease include fever, a red sore on the skin where the bite occurred, muscle aches, headache, or fatigue, and usually develop 1 to 3 weeks after an infective bite.   A traveler returning from a disease-endemic area who suspects African trypanosomiasis should contact a health care provider immediately.  African trypanosomiasis is fatal if not treated, and treatment is difficult and sometimes unsuccessful.

African trypanosomiasis can be prevented by minimizing contact with tsetse flies, which are larger in size than average house flies and bite during the day.  Tsetse flies are attracted to bright or dark colors, and they can bite through lightweight clothing. Persons participating in outdoor activities such as hunting or safaris should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants of medium-weight material in neutral colors (beige or khaki) that blend with the background environment.   People should avoid walking through bushes, and vehicles should be inspected for tsetse flies before entering.  Although insect repellent has not been proved to be particularly effective against tsetse flies, travelers should continue to use repellents as they will prevent other insect bites that can cause illness.  For more information see http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/sleepingsickness/prevent.html .

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