Sleeping sickness returns to Kalangala


Fredrick Luyimbazi Zaake, the assistant commissioner for entomology in the Ministry of Agriculture showing off a tsetsefly trap. Photo by Martin Ssebuyira

Upon arriving at Bugala, the main island housing the headquarters of Kalangala District, you are received with the beautiful scenery of the newly constructed beaches and forest cover. You can never think that there is a serious health problem until you move deep into the island.

Remejio Kijoma, a fisherman at Bumanji village in the District has suffered from endless fevers for close to three months.
He had entertained thoughts that he could have acquired HIV because he was losing weight by the day until he went to Kitovu Hospital in Masaka where he was diagnosed with sleeping sickness.

“The test itself is too painful as one is told to bend and pick samples from his/her spinal cord,” he narrates. He says it was from there that he was referred to Kagolomolo hospital in Mayuge were he was admitted for three months until he recovered.
“I had no helper and had to fend for my family at the same time – it was a very trying moment,” he recalls.

Fausta Nasebawanga of Busanga village in Kalangala almost lost her daughter because she was diagnosed with malaria in Kalangala clinics. It was after two weeks of endless malaria that Nasebawanga went to Kitovu hospital where her eight-months-old daughter was misdiagnosed with sleeping sickness.

“It was painful as I saw my daughter bent and pricked at the back to get the sample from the spinal code,” she said. Nasebawanga said she was then transferred to Namungalwe hospital where she was admitted for three months until her daughter recovered.

trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, is a vector-borne parasitic disease spread by Tsetse flies. Diagnosis and treatment of the disease is complex and requires skilled staff. tsetse flies are found only in sub-Saharan Africa though only certain species transmit the disease.

Dr Edward Muwanga Kivumbi, Kalangala District’s veterinary Officer says tsetse flies had wiped out about 60 per cent of the population from the island and their increasing numbers are threatening them again.

“We had reduced them by use of traps by through Sustainable Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Free Areas (STATFA) project that has come to an end. The disease now poses a bigger threat,” he says.

He says they need about 30,000 traps but the district can only afford 400, which are insufficient for the 84 islands in the district. He says over 9.900sqm are tsetsefly infested with recent surveys showing 231 flies per trap per day.

“We got five cases in 2010 and one in 2011. That is dangerous because World Health Organisation considers a case of sleeping sickness as an epidemic,” he adds.
The project that was funded by International Atomic Agency and African Development Bank had offered 2,840 traps that had reduced tsetse flies but the project wound up last December.

Fredrick Luyimbazi Zaake, the assistant commissioner for entomology in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries says sleeping sickness threatens millions of people in 36 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He says many of the affected populations live in remote areas with limited access to adequate health services, which hampers the surveillance and therefore the diagnosis and treatment of cases.

“Traps are good but cannot be sufficient; that necessitates aerial spraying to get rid of the deadly vectors,” he says. He says they coordinated and synergised vector control activities that led to the birth of the Pan African Tsetse and Trypanosomosis Eradication Campaign of the Africa Union.

By Martin Ssebuyira, Daily Monitor


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