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African Trypanosomiasis in Returning Belgian and German Traveller

23 Feb 2012

A traveller returning to Belgium following a two week visit to Kenya has been diagnosed with African trypanosomiasis. Of those two weeks, the traveller spent three days (7-9 February 2012) visiting the Masai Mara game park.

Last month on 28 January 2012, a 61-year-old German traveller also returned unwell following a holiday in Kenya. Almost all of the holiday was spent in a beach resort in Mombasa, however two days were spent on safari in the Masai Mara game park (18-19 January). Initially the man was treated for malaria as he presented with fever; subsequent laboratory investigations excluded malaria but identified trypanosomes in the blood stample.

Investigation into the locations visited by the Belgian traveller in the Masai Mara game park is underway.

Advice to Travellers

African trypanosomiasis is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tsetse fly, which is a daytime biting insect.

Personal protection methods have limited value in preventing bites as tsetse flies can bite through clothing and are not well repelled by insecticide. As they bite through the day bednets are not particularly helpful. Tsetse flies tend to inhabit specific areas and travellers should be aware of the possible risk and avoid these areas where practical.

It is important that travellers continue to use personal protection methods to prevent other infections transmitted by biting insects e.g. malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever.