By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported recently that Côte d’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast has successfully eliminated human African trypanosomiasis, also known as “sleeping sickness” as a public health problem.

Côte d’Ivoire
Image/CIA

“I dedicate this milestone to decades of hard work and the individual contribution of every single health worker who braved some of the toughest challenges in reaching populations, often in remote rural areas,” said Dr Aka Aouele, Minister of Health and Public Hygiene of Cote d’Ivoire. “Our challenge now is to maintain the required level of surveillance and with the help of everyone to achieve interruption of transmission by 2030.”

Côte d’Ivoire reported hundreds of cases per year in the 1990s. Cases have progressively declined over the last two decades and in the past few years, the country reported fewer than 10 cases per year. At this low level, it qualifies to have eliminated the disease as a public health problem.

The achievement is attributed to robust control and surveillance measures, active (and passive) screening of people at risk and targeted vector control which helped to strongly decrease the number of cases in areas of transmission. Hospitals and health centres checked patients using specific diagnostic tests and laboratory mobile units screened people in villages.

Treatment of infected people meant that the vector, the tsetse fly, could no longer transmit the disease to others. This had to be maintained over years to progressively eliminate the disease.

“Cote d’Ivoire’s achievement marks an important step that brings Africa closer to eliminating sleeping sickness,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Sustained control measures over the past two decades have brought a significant decline in cases – a positive sign that many countries will soon be crossing this landmark.”

Côte d’Ivoire becomes the second African country after Togo to be validated by WHO.