Agence France-Presse Reports On Efforts To Eradicate Sleeping Sickness In Sub-Saharan Africa

Agence France-Presse reports on human African trypanosomiasis, “commonly known as sleeping sickness, which is transmitted by tsetse flies found in 36 sub-Saharan African countries,” writing, “Without treatment in four months to a year, ‘the parasite penetrates into the brain, causing serious neurological symptoms, until death,’ said Doctor Benedict Blaynay, head of neglected tropical diseases at French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.” The news service highlights efforts to control the disease in Chad, noting, “For the people living in Chad’s rural communities, the strange symptoms of sleeping sickness have long been shrouded in superstition about witchcraft and demonic possession. But the World Health Organization says it is not a losing battle.”

AFP continues, “After continued control efforts, the most recent [global] statistics available show the number of cases in 2009 dropped below 10,000 for the first time in 50 years, and the trend continued in 2010 with 7,139 new cases reported, the WHO reported on its website.” The news service notes, “The WHO has established public-private partnerships with Sanofi and also Bayer Healthcare to create a surveillance team and provide support to endemic countries in their control efforts as well as a free supply of drugs to treat the sick,” and writes, “The chief executive of Sanofi, Christopher Viehbacher, said the main challenge ahead ‘is to keep up the expertise in diagnosis and treatment in the medical centers, so that the monitoring for sleeping sickness is maintained'” (Daba, 6/10).

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