By Gladys Kalibbala
For the past five years health experts have been disturbed by the narrowing gap between two types of sleeping sickness moving from the eastern part of the country to the northern region.
Research had shown that the gap had narrowed to within 100km between TB Gambiense which is the chronic form and TB Rhodesiense, the acute form.
The fear was that once the merger of these two forms took place, it would cause a state of drug resistance to the available drugs on the market.
Unfortunately Uganda is the only country with the two forms of sleeping sickness, with the chronic form existing in West Nile while the acute in the eastern region.
The chronic form is found in seven districts, but the other form, TB Rhodesiense, is more spread out and is present in 33 districts.
During a Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Control round table meeting at Hotel Africana recently, participants learnt that Uganda has recently registered a 50% decline of sleeping sickness cases in the West Nile region.
The drop in cases has caused the halt of the merger of the two forms shifting between Kole and Amuru Districts.
According to Dr. Charles Wamboga, the in-charge of sleeping sickness at the ministry of health, the break has come as a result of intensive suppression methods supported by different stakeholders.
“To sustain this reduction, government with support from Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), is strengthening case detection for sleeping sickness in the north-west region,” he said.
He said further that the partnership caused the increase of diagnostic centres in West Nile from four to 200 centres while FIND plans to expand services to South Sudan in order to stop re-infestation as the tsetse fly is trans-boundary in nature.
“Given the severity and fatality associated with sleeping sickness, there is still need to continue surveillance efforts,” warned Wamboga.
A round table meeting organized by Uganda Trypanosomiasis Control Council (UTCC) and attended by the state minister for animal industry, Bright Rwamirama, called on all stakeholders involved the fight of tsetse flies in the country to work under one umbrella of the council for better results.
Minister Rwamirama pledged government’s total support in fighting tsetse flies which transmit sleeping sickness in humans and Nagana disease in animals.
“Tsetse fly infestation threatens half of the national herd so we need to work together and save pastoralism which is the major income earner in the country,” he said.
Reports from the ministry of agriculture indicate that about 70% of Uganda’s land surface is tsetse fly-infested.
Prof Charles Waiswa, the executive director for Coordinating Office for Trypanosomiasis in Uganda (COCTU), appealed to government to give more funding to COCTU to help in sensitization and monitoring which, he said, will later lead to eradication of the flies.
At the same function UTCC awarded certificates of recognition to different organizations, thanking them for their outstanding efforts and collaboration in suppressing the disease in Uganda.