FACTS: Of all the terrifying creatures in Africa, few are as frightening as the little tsetse fly. (Tsetse means “fly” in Setswana – so a tsetse fly is a fly… fly.) To begin with, the bite of this bumblebee-sized insect really hurts! But far more ominously, tsetse carry the dreaded Trypanosoma brucei parasite responsible for sleeping sickness.
Headaches and fever are often the first indications of the protozoan’s dreadful purpose. These are followed by Winterbottom’s sign – the swollen lymph nodes behind the ears and just above the base of the neck which herald the true nature of the infection.
As it spreads from the bloodstream to the central nervous system (over the course of weeks or years, depending on the variety), personality changes begin to occur. Irritability, concentration difficulties, and slurred speech are evident – and of course, extreme fatigue. Without treatment, coma and death are assured.
Sleeping sickness traumatizes at least 20,000 people a year (and unreported cases may amount to ten times more). But it is confined to the rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa where the tsetse reside, so you probably just need a good night’s rest. Sweet dreams. Bzzz.....
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