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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

After Years of Incubation - Sleeping Sickness

A Frenchman was taken by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo and tortured. He escaped and a few years later emigrated to Canada with his wife and children. He began hearing voices and became paranoid fearing someone was trying to kill him.

Post traumatic stress disorder was diagnosed by a doctor. Antidepressants did not work. He got headaches and pain in his back. He deteriorated lost his appetite, became weak and dizzy, and contemplated suicide.

X-rays showed enlarged lymph nodes. An MRI indicated abnormality in the brain. A spinal tap found a very high white blood cell count and most importantly, eel-like protozoa - trypanosomes. After years of incubation, the man had developed sleeping sickness.

This disease is endemic in Africa. It is contracted by being bitten by the tsetse fly which carries the trypanosomiasis protozoa. Death occurs with extreme exhaustion. It can have a myriad of conflicting symptoms. Treatment by a few drugs is possible but also dangerous. The usual outcome is death from the disease or from the treatment.
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