Rodrigue Apénou, 22, is a student in 2th year of IT management, in Lomé. He doesn’t know anything about sleeping sickness. “I don’t know about sleeping sickness. I never heard of it”, he tells VOA Africa.
Rodrigue Apénou was not born when Togo experienced its last case of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT). It’s the same for his comrade Joël Atohoun, aged 21, who had to use his previous knowledge to remember.
“It is a disease thought to be caused by a fly called a tsetse fly. We were taught that in elementary school “, he said proudly as if to taunt Rodrigue. Playing the experts, Joël continues, “as a sign, it can be noted that the person who is bitten will sleep a lot. It’s a bit like that “.
It was in 1996 that Togo recorded its last case of HAT, commonly known as sleeping sickness. The latter is characterized by sleep disorders as confirmed by Dr Kossi Badziklou, former coordinator of the HAT control program in Togo.
“What we see in patients at a given level is a little messy sleep. That is, people who can spend the whole day sleeping and in really abnormal conditions. Someone to whom we serve a dish, who is at the table and who begins by sleeping without eating for example. Someone who goes to the field, who takes his hoe to work, he sits and sleeps all day “, explained this doctor. “Without proper treatment death is inevitable “, added Dr Badziklou.
Eliminating sleeping sickness as a public health problem should not lead to slackening, warns the former coordinator of the disease control program.
“What we should not forget is that the disease can come back. Already in the 1960s many countries were at this stage “, he said. “But there was a relaxation and we were surprised by the resurgence of this disease”, recalled Dr Kossi Badziklou.
By eliminating sleeping sickness as a public health problem, Togo becomes the first in Africa to achieve this feat. WHO has acknowledged that the country has met all the criteria.
“To eliminate human African trypanosomiasis, it must be proven that there have been no indigenous cases at least during the last 10 years. Beyond that, it was necessary to follow up and then present a file. A very good file because it is necessary to document the entire history of the disease since it started in the country “, detailed Dr Fatoumata Binta Diallo, WHO resident representative in Togo.
After the elimination of sleeping sickness, Togo will work to verify that its transmission has stopped. The last level, which is its total eradication, concerns all endemic countries, as was the case on August 25 for wild polio in Africa.
According to a WHO file, the disease is present in 36 African countries.