More than 11 million people in Kenya are at risk of being infected by sleeping sickness, a disease often transmitted by the tsetse fly to people in rural areas who depend on agriculture, fishing, animal husbandry and hunting.
"In Kenya, 38 out of 47 counties are infested with the tsetse fly," said Dr. Pamela Olet, CEO of the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council. She said sleeping sickness was endemic to the Lake Victoria Basin region, which includes Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. "All the [Kenyan] counties in the Lake Victoria Basin are at risk. This translates to about 11 million people," Olet said.
Sleeping sickness is a vector-borne parasitic disease caused by protozoan parasites. It is generally transmitted to humans by the bite of the tsetse fly.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rural populations living in regions where transmission occurs are the most exposed to the tsetse fly and, therefore, to the disease.
Common symptoms of the disease include changes of behavior, confusion, sensory disturbances, poor coordination and disturbances in the sleep cycle. Without treatment, the disease is fatal, according to the WHO, which hopes to eliminate it as a public health problem by 2020.
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