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US issues travel alert on sleeping sickness

US issues travel alert on sleeping sickness

The US has issued a travel advisory to tourists visiting the Maasai Mara, cautioning against the risk of contracting sleeping sickness.

The disease, also called trypanosomiasis, affects both human beings and animals, and is transmitted by the tsetse fly, which is found in parts of Kenya and other African countries.

The advisory issued last week by the country’s principal health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), came after two European tourists contracted the parasitic disease during a holiday in Kenya, which included a two-day trip to the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

“The form of sleeping sickness seen in eastern and south-eastern Africa was recently reported in two European tourists who visited the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya,” says the advisory and urges visitors to the park to take precautionary measures.

However, by Wednesday health authorities in Kenya were yet to receive the medical details from CDC.

“We have contacted the agency for more details so that we may be able to prepare our line of action,” Dr Shahnaz Sharif, the director of Public Health and Sanitation, told the Nation on Wednesday.

He said there has not been any case of sleeping sickness from the area for more than a decade, but his ministry would liaise with others in the wildlife and livestock sectors to get to the bottom of the matter.

The case of the two patients has been widely publicised in Europe, raising fears that it could impact negatively on tourism.

“Within a week after the cases were reported by a leading European journal (Eurosurveillance), most of the travel journals are warning tourists against visiting Maasai Mara,” wrote Dr John Kagira on Wednesday in an Internet forum for Kenyan veterinary surgeons.

Writing in the Eurosurveillance, doctors who treated a 62-year-old-man at a Frankfurt hospital in Germany at the end of January, are in agreement with Dr Sharif that no cases of sleeping sickness had been reported in the Mara for more than a decade.

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