Human African trypanosomiasis: an emerging public health crisis

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There is a dramatic resurgence of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) in sub-Saharan Africa. T.b. gambiense is spreading epidemically in large areas of Central Africa, especially the Southern Sudan, Congo-Zaire, Angola, Uganda and the Central African Republic. Devastating epidemics of T.b. rhodesiense have occurred in south-eastern Uganda.The causes of the re-emergence of sleeping sickness as a public health problem include widespread civil disturbance and war, declining economies, reduced health financing and the dismantling of disease control programmes. Despite the inevitably fatal outcome without treatment, HAT is often given low priority by donors and national government. The advances made in diagnosis, treatment and vector control have not been sufficiently implemented.To limit the human impact in some of the poorest communities in Africa, endemic countries will require external support to implement strategies for disease control. Donor agencies, NGOs and mission organisations could play an important role in supporting control efforts. National authorities will need to control and co-ordinate these efforts with assistance from WHO and the international community.

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