Prevention & Control

There is no vaccine or drug for prophylaxis against African trypanosomiasis. Preventive measures are aimed at minimizing contact with tsetse flies. Local residents are usually aware of the areas that are heavily infested and they can provide advice about places to avoid. Other helpful measures include:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants of medium-weight material in neutral colors that blend with the background environment. Tsetse flies are attracted to bright or dark colors, and they can bite through lightweight clothing.
  • Inspect vehicles before entering. The flies are attracted to the motion and dust from moving vehicles.
  • Avoid bushes. The tsetse fly is less active during the hottest part of the day but will bite if disturbed.
  • Use insect repellent. Permethrin-impregnated clothing and insect repellent have not been proved to be particularly effective against tsetse flies, but they will prevent other insect bites that can cause illness.

Control of African trypanosomiasis rests on two strategies: reducing the disease reservoir and controlling the tsetse fly vector. Because humans are the significant disease reservoir for T. b. gambiense, the main control strategy for this subspecies is active case-finding through population screening, followed by treatment of the infected persons that are identified. Tsetse fly traps are sometimes used as an adjunct. Reducing the reservoir of infection is more difficult for T. b. rhodesiense, since there are a variety of animal hosts. Vector control is the primary strategy in use. This is usually done with traps or screens, in combination with insecticides and odors that attract the flies.

Page last reviewed: August 29, 2012