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Sleeping Sickness in European Travellers to Kenya

March 9th, 2012

Recently there have been two cases of sleeping sickness reported in European travellers who had visited slightly different parts of the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, one traveller was from Germany and the other from Belgium. Thankfully both persons recovered. Prior to this, there had been no reported cases in the Masai Mara for over 10 years.

This Sleeping Sickness a very rare disease in travellers. About 300,000 persons visit this game reserve each year. The risk is obviously low for any individual traveller. However the disease can be very serious and even fatal, so it pays to be aware. This disease is contracted from the bite of a tse tse fly. These are large flies that look a bit like local March flies. Photos here

At any given time, very few tsetse flies are infected with the germ known as Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, which can infect humans. Most use flies carry animal parasites that cannot infect humans. The bite of these flies is quite painful.

Tse Tse flies are said to bite in the day, and are attracted to dark colours especially dark blue. Research suggests to be due to the flies seeking shadows to rest and shadows look dark blue. This enthusiasm for blue is used in tse tse fly traps.

Long sleeved shirts and long pants are highly recommended to be worn in the game parks of Africa. It pays to know about this colour preference however when packing your travel wardrobe, and avoid blue clothes.

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