African sleeping sickness shrouded in superstition

  • Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case

    Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case

    Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case

    A three-judge appellate panel in Denver heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage. Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved that state's gay marriage ban in 2004.(April 17) …

  • Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

    Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

    Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show

    An electric car that proponents hope will replace horse-drawn carriages in New York City has also been revealed at the auto show. (Apr. 17) …

  • Sneaky Dog Vandalizes Cars For 6 Months

    Sneaky Dog Vandalizes Cars For 6 Months

    Sneaky Dog Vandalizes Cars For 6 Months

    Recently, residents of Brampton, England reported over ten cases in which their car tires had been punctured. Well, finally, after six months and countless hours of police work, closed circuit cameras caught the vandal red-pawed. So who was the culprit? Jess the border collie. But WHY was she doing it? Find out. Plus, actual cat burglars and riot dogs! That's right. We said riot dogs. …

A frail 65-year-old woman sitting under the mango trees in a rural village in Chad suffers from a tropical disease that eats into the brain, and the locals blame on witchcraft.

"I've been suffering for more than two months now. I have headaches, fever, and I just feel very tired," said Lea Sadene, who has just been tested and diagnosed.

She has Human African trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness, which is transmitted by tsetse flies found in 36 sub-Saharan African countries.

Sadene is in the first phase of the often fatal illness. Without treatment in four months to a year, "the parasite penetrates into the brain, causing serious neurological symptoms, until death," said Doctor Benedict Blaynay, head of neglected tropical diseases at French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.

"The symptoms can cause a change in personality, mental deterioration, leading to a long sleep or coma," which gives the illness its name, he said.

Chadian health officials say around 3,300 people were infected between 2001 and 2011 in several areas of the landlocked central African nation, one of the poorest in the world.

"With more than 100 cases per year Chad is considered an endemic country," said Doctor Peka Mallaye, who is in charge of the national programme to fight against sleeping sickness.

In Kobitoi in southern Chad recently, village women lined up with their children, many with swollen bellies, in the scorching sun as temperatures hit 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) to undergo tests for the disease organised with Sanofi.

The team found 14 cases of sleeping sickness out of 120 people examined, Mallaye said.

"This village is located next to a forest where the tsetse flies live. During the rainy season, people pass through the forest to go fishing or hunting," he said.

Fighting the disease, however, takes more than testing and drugs. For the people living in Chad's rural communities, the strange symptoms of sleeping sickness have long been shrouded in superstition about witchcraft and demonic possession.

"Before we didn't know that it was the disease that was killing people. People died like flies, they blamed witches," said Alngar Legode, a village mother trying to comfort her eight-month child still crying after being pricked for the blood test for the disease.

"Witchcraft is seen as a real phenomenon in traditional societies," said sociologist Serferbe Charlot. "They think that a man or a woman suspected of witchcraft is eating away at a person's soul."

In the advanced stages of the disease the infected person experiences severe neurological problems.

"When this disease reaches the brain, the patient loses control of his life, he even becomes violent. That is when the villagers believe that the sick person is possessed by evil spirits," said Charlot.

"It is up to the health specialists to prove" to the population that it is not witchcraft, he said, adding: "The fight against sleeping sickness calls for raising awareness."

But the World Health Organisation says it is not a losing battle.

After continued control efforts, the most recent statistics available show the number of cases in 2009 dropped below 10,000 for the first time in 50 years, and the trend continued in 2010 with 7139 new cases reported, the WHO reported on its website.

WHO estimates the number of actual cases is currently 30,000. The most affected country has been the Democratic Republic of Congo, which declared 500 new cases in 2010.

The WHO has established public-private partnerships with Sanofi and also Bayer Healthcare to create a surveillance team and provide support to endemic countries in their control efforts as well as a free supply of drugs to treat the sick.

Diagnosis should be made as early as possible before the disease reaches the neurological stage, which calls for more complicated and risky treatment.

The chief executive of Sanofi, Christopher Viehbacher, said the main challenge ahead "is to keep up the expertise in diagnosis and treatment in the medical centres, so that the monitoring for sleeping sickness is maintained."

Sleeping sickness figures on the WHO's list of 10 neglected tropical diseases. In January in London, the UN health agency brought together the US, British and United Arab Emirates governments along with 13 pharmaceutical companies and international organisations like the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make a new push to eliminate these diseases by the end of the decade.

"If we keep doing the right things better, and on a larger scale, some of these diseases could be eliminated by 2015, and others by 2020," WHO Director General Margaret Chan has said.

Follow @YahooMalaysia on LINE for daily entertainment updates.

Loading...
  • Kris Dayanti pilih Malaysia
    Azizah Saleh - Tupai
    Kris Dayanti pilih Malaysia 15 hours ago
    Kris Dayanti pilih Malaysia

    Diva popular Indonesia membuat kemunculan kembali dan memilih Malaysia sebagai destinasi untuk melancarkan album terbarunya khas buat tatapan peminatnya di negara ini. …

  • Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher bakal timang anak perempuan
    Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher bakal timang anak perempuan

    Walaupun masih belum mengesahkan berita kehamilan mereka, pasangan pelakon Hollywood ini dikatakan bakal menimang cahaya mata perempuan. …

  • Zizan rancang kahwini kekasih Januari 2015
    Hana Ahmad - Tupai
    Zizan rancang kahwini kekasih Januari 2015 19 hours ago
    Zizan rancang kahwini kekasih Januari 2015

    Pelawak dan pengacara popular ini merancang untuk mengahwini aktres Emma Maembong pada awal tahun 2015 dan ingin urus karier sendiri. …

  • Leto: Music needs transparency
    Cover Media
    Leto: Music needs transparency 7 hours ago
    Leto: Music needs transparency

    Jared Leto’s documentary Artifact will make its US television debut on VH1 and Palladia. …

  • Singer’s accuser gives press conference
    Singer’s accuser gives press conference

    The man who has accused director Bryan Singer of sexual abuse has given a press conference. …

  • Ketahui kesalahan ketika bersolek
    Azwa Iela - Tupai
    Ketahui kesalahan ketika bersolek 20 hours ago
    Ketahui kesalahan ketika bersolek

    Di sini kami ingin berkongsi dengan anda tentang beberapa kesalahan ketika anda bersolek. …

  • Makanan yang boleh kawal penyakit
    Azwa Iela - Tupai
    Makanan yang boleh kawal penyakit Wed, Apr 16, 2014 11:08 AM MYT
    Makanan yang boleh kawal penyakit

    Di sini kami ingin berkongsi informasi mengenai beberapa jenis makanan yang baik untuk tubuh badan anda. …

  • Rawatan bawah mata dan kedutan!
    Hana Ahmad - Tupai
    Rawatan bawah mata dan kedutan! Wed, Apr 16, 2014 11:08 AM MYT
    Rawatan bawah mata dan kedutan!

    Masalah lingkaran hitam bawah mata serta kedutan boleh diatasi dengan mengamalkan tips-tips mudah berikut. …

  • Miley Cyrus remains hospitalized, cancels two more concerts
    Miley Cyrus remains hospitalized, cancels two more concerts

    Miley Cyrus, who is suffering from a sinus infection, has postponed two more U.S. concerts on her "Bangerz" tour as the pop star remains hospitalized following an allergic reaction to antibiotics, her concert promoter said on Thursday. Cyrus, 21, called off upcoming shows in Nashville, Tennessee, on Friday and Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday. The show in Nashville has been rescheduled for August 7 and Louisville on August 9, Live Nation Entertainment Inc said. …

  • Dapatkah Pelat Dipulihkan?
    Yahoo Newsroom
    Dapatkah Pelat Dipulihkan? Thu, Sep 19, 2013 1:54 PM MYT
    Dapatkah Pelat Dipulihkan?

    Pelat bukanlah disebabkan oleh lidah yang pendek. Apakah punca pelat? …

Comments on Yahoo pages are subject to our link to Comments Guidelines. You are responsible for any content that you post. Yahoo is not responsible or liable in any way for comments posted by its users. Yahoo does not in any way endorse or support comments made by its users.