Sleeping sickness is also known as human African Trypanosomiasis (or HAT). It is a disease transmitted by the tsetse fly. This condition is transmitted by a bite from an infected fly. This disease can be fatal, as it progresses from invasion to the central nervous system to inflammation of the brain to a coma and death.
This disease is most common in parts of Saharan Africa. There are two organisms that cause sleeping sickness in humans. The organisms are Rhodesian, which is found in Central and East Africa and Gambian, which is found in Central and West Africa. The Rhodesian species live mainly in woodland areas, so you are likely infected if you visit game parks. The Gambian form lives in tropical rain forests and is usually a threat to individuals living in these areas, not usually visitors.
Sleeping Sickness develops in stages, beginning with fever and weakness. Without treatment, the parasite can move to the central nervous system leading to confusion, violent behavior and convulsions. The name of this condition comes from the inability to sleep during the night and becoming unable to not sleep during the day. As it progresses further, it can reach the brain causing mood swings, fever and inflammation. It can then progress to the heart causing heart inflammation. If untreated, sleeping sickness leads to a coma and death.
There are two stages of medications that can be used to treat sleeping sickness. The stages are determined by the advancement of the condition. If the symptoms are determined and diagnosed early, a medication can resolve the condition. These medications are Pentamidine and Suramin. The two medications do have some side effects including allergic reactions, but are generally safe and effective.
The next stages of medications are toxic and can be difficult to use. These drugs must be stronger as the disease has progressed and the parasite may be in the brain. These two medications are Melarsoprol and Eflornithine.
Within the last few months (in May 2009), an additional medication has been approved by the World Health Organization as a successful treatment. It is called NECT or Nifurtimox-Eflornithine Combination Therapy. It has been shown to be safer than the other stage 2 medications and just as effective. All of these medications are used just as an antibiotic would be, taken on a daily basis for a set period of time.
There is one possible homeopathic remedy, which is arsenicum album, a form of arsenic. Arsenic is also a main ingredient in the above medications, which is why they have toxic qualities. It requires careful preparation to separate the other ingredients, such as iron and nickel. Once this is done, the formula is ground into a powder and sold as a liquid, tablet or powder. With the seriousness of this condition, it is vital to seek medical help to determine the correct dosage.
There are no home remedies for this condition. This disease is susceptible to residents on the African continent. In these areas, the treatment options are very limited and it is even difficult to have access to medications. An American may contract this disease if traveling to the specific areas, but they would still use medications upon receiving a diagnosis on their return.