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Sleeping sickness is an infectious parasitic disease carried by tsetse flies and characterized by inflammation of the brain and the covering of the brain (meninges).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Sleeping sickness is caused by two organisms,
T. brucei rhodesiense
T. brucei gambiense
. The more severe form of the illness is caused by
Without treatment, death may occur within six months from cardiac failure , or from rhodesiense infection itself. Gambiense infection may require up to two years before symptoms of infection in the central nervous system appear.
Gambiense -infected people develop drowsiness during the day, but insomnia at night. Sleep becomes uncontrollable as the disease progresses until the patient becomes comatose .
Risk factors include living in those parts of Africa where the disease is found and being bitten by tsetse flies. The incidence is extremely low in the U.S. -- it is only found in travelers who have visited or lived in those areas.
Signs and testsA physical examination may show signs of meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and meninges).
Tests include the following:
TreatmentMedications used to treat this disorder include:
Expectations (prognosis)Untreated rhodesiense infection is almost universally fatal. Gambiense infection causes the classic "sleeping sickness" disease. Both diseases should be treated immediately upon diagnosis. The diseases are easier to treat during the blood-borne stage and more difficult to treat once meningoencephalitis develops.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if symptoms of this disorder develop. It is important to begin treatment as soon as possible.
PreventionPentamidine injections protect against gambiense , but have not yet been demonstrated as effective against rhodesiense . Insect control measures can help prevent the spread of sleeping sickness in areas where the disease is endemic.
Update Date: 1/3/2003Eleftherios Mylonakis, M.D., Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT