Global Alert and Response (GAR)

WHO Report on Global Surveillance of Epidemic-prone Infectious Diseases - African trypanosomiasis


Sleeping sickness is an old disease. It was known to the slave traders, who rejected Africans with the characteristic swollen cervical glands, because they knew that these people would die untimely deaths (6). There have been three particularly severe epidemics during the twentieth century. The first was from 1896 until 1906 in Uganda and the Congo basin, the second during the 1920s, and the third began in the 1970s and continues until the present time. Intensive systematic screening by mobile teams, of many millions of people per year at risk, halted the epidemic of the 1920s. The illness was practically eliminated by 1960. Such active population screening was not continued, at least partly because the disease had nearly disappeared from Africa. Not surprisingly, with the breakdown of the control system, the disease has re-emerged as a major health problem in recent years.

(6) Jansens PG, Kivits M and Vuylsteke. Medicine et hygiene en Afrique Centrale de 1885 a nos jours. Foundation Roi Baudoin, 1992.