THE Government will carry out aerial spraying to kill tsetse flies, which spread sleeping sickness and nagana, in 15 districts in central and eastern Uganda. The exercise is part of a Pan-African campaign against sleeping sickness, following a decision of the AU heads of state to eradicate the disea
THE Government will carry out aerial spraying to kill tsetse flies, which spread sleeping sickness and nagana, in 15 districts in central and eastern Uganda. The exercise is part of a Pan-African campaign against sleeping sickness, following a decision of the AU heads of state to eradicate the disease.
The national coordinator of the Pan African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign (PATTEC), Frederick Luyimbazi, said the dates have not been fixed, but baseline data collection begins in two months.
The baseline data collection will involve estimating fly populations in various places, prevalence of the disease and understanding human behaviour.
Luyimbazi said aerial spraying would be applied alongside the use of fly traps. In addition, cattle will be spread with a paste that kills any fly that lands on it.
â€œIn 1988 and 1989 we did limited aerial spraying in Busoga as part of an integrated approach. By then we had 8,000 cases of sleeping sickness reported a year. This reduced to less than 900,â€ said Luyimbazi.
The first phase, funded by the African Development Bank (ADB), will cover Rakai, Kalangala, Masaka, Kampala, Mukono, Luwero, Mpigi, Wakiso, Jinja, Bugiri, Busia, Iganga, Tororo, Paliisa and Kamuli district.
The spraying will be done using a safe range of chemicals known as pyrethroids, said Lawrence Semakula of the Coordinating Office for Control of Trypanosomiasis in Uganda. It will be done at night to avoid interference with human activities.
â€œThe exercise will be given to experienced pilots who did the same job in Botswana using computerised planes,â€ Semakula explained.
â€œThe planes have switches which automatically turn off when they sense water bodies. The computers will also be able to show which places have not yet been sprayed.â€
The exercise, he added, will be done five times in each area in order to ensure they kill even tsetse flies that were not yet hatched by the time of the first spraying.
The aerial method has proved to be successful in countries like Botswana and some islands of Zanzibar and was said to be cost effective, said Semakula.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) does not object to aerial spraying against tsetse flies. It has been done before and no adverse effects have been reported, said the deputy Executive Director Gerald Musoke.
â€œIf it is the same chemicals used before, it has no adverse effect on the environment, though I am surprised they have not yet informed us about the impending aerial spraying,â€ Musoke commented.
He noted that some areas such as Kalangala Islands were long over due for aerial spraying.
He advised the ministry to move fast if it intended to save livestock and people in Kalangala.
Sleeping sickness and nagana, which are both spread by tsetse flies, have spread beyond their traditional area in Busoga, reaching as far as Kampala. Currently, tsetse flies are estimated to be present in about 70% of the land surface area in Uganda.
The disease, transmitted back and forth between human beings and livestock, is increasingly becoming resistant to the available drugs, says agriculture minister Hilary Onek.
Moreover, pharmaceuticals are not interested in developing new drugs against it, saying being a disease affecting poor countries, the drugs cannot be profitable.
â€œThe project is in line with the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by 50% by the year 2015,â€ said Onek.
According to Dr Abbas Kakembo, who works with the Ministry of Health sleeping sickness department, there are two types of sleeping sickness in Uganda. The Gambian type is in West Nile, but its focal point has been gradually spreading to the southeastern part of the country.
The Rhodesian type, which had been mainly in Busoga for many years, has also been spreading northwards and westwards. Eventually the two types might merge somewhere north of Lake Kyoga, making treatment and control more complicated.
The WHO estimates that sleeping sickness kills more than 40,000 Africans annually while the animal form (Nagana) kills two million cattle annually.
Sleeping sickness factfile
When the infection spreads to the central nervous system, it causes the symptoms typical of sleeping sickness. When it reaches the brain, behavioural changes such as fear and mood swings occur, followed by headache, fever and weakness.
General symptoms include:
Sleeping sickness can be cured using drugs like Suramin (Antrypol), Melarsoprol, and Pentamidine, but these have to be prescribed by a doctor after proper diagnosis.
Without treatment, death may occur within six months
Source Medline Plus
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