Human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, is a parasitic disease that flourishes in impoverished and rural parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei and spread through the bite of the tsetse fly. The disease has two stages: the first stage wherein the parasite is found in the peripheral circulation; and the second stage where the parasite invades the central nervous system. Infected persons may develop fever, headache, muscle pain and enlarged lymph nodes in the first stage. Without diagnosis and treatment in the first phase, the disease progresses to the second stage where mental deterioration (i.e. personality changes, daytime sleepiness, progressive confusion), partial paralysis, balance problems, and eventually death occur within six months to three years. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or prophylaxis to prevent African trypanosomiasis.
Elimination of Human African trypanosomiasis depends on increasing access to early diagnosis, delivering more effective treatment, and continuing surveillance. After continued control efforts, in 2009 the number of cases dropped below 10,000 (9878) for the first time in 50 years. This decline in number of cases has continued with 3796 new cases reported in 2014, the lowest level since the start of systematic global data-collection 75 years ago. However, these numbers are considered to be a fraction of the real burden and should be estimated at 20,000 new cases per year and the estimated population at risk is 65 million people.