African sleeping sickness, also known as African trypanosomiasis, is caused by two protozoan parasites within the Trypanosoma brucei complex. The two parasites are morphologically similar but cause dramatically different diseases (Thomas ED). The two forms of African sleeping sickness are East African Trypanosomiasis and West African Trypanosomiasis respectively. These sicknesses are transmitted through the bite of an infected tsetse fly found only in Africa. No vaccine is available but the disease can be treated if detected early enough. Currently most drugs available for treatment are toxic to people (Moore ED).
The East African sleeping sickness is an acute disease that usually leads to death within weeks or months if it goes undetected. It is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. The bite from the tsetse fly forms a red sore spot called a chancre. Symptoms include fever, severe headaches, irritability, extreme fatigue, skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and aching muscles. Once the infection has invaded the central nervous system of the person's symptoms become more intense. These symptoms include progressive confusion, personality changes, slurred speech, seizures, and difficulty in walking and talking (East ED). East African trypanosomiasis can be contracted in parts of Eastern and Central Africa and is largely determined by the infected tsetse fly and wild animal population (East ED).
West African trypanosomiasis, also called Gambian sleeping sickness, is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. This is also transmitted by the bite of an infected tsetse fly and leaves a red sore spot called a chancre. In rare cases a pregnant mother that becomes infected may pass this on to her unborn child, it can be transmitted through a blood transfusion, or by an organ transplant (West ED). West African sleeping sickness is a chronic disease unlike that of East African sleeping sickness (Thomas ED).