A little biting creature

Everyone has heard about the beautiful scenery in Africa. There are lots of fun things to do there and one of them is watching rare animals! But, stay away from one creature – tsetse flies.

Tsetse flies are very dangerous creatures with deadly bites. Find out more about them here:  wikipedia.org/Tsetse_fly

 

You might think that big creatures are the scariest, but what you might not know is that it is often the smallest that are the most aggressive. Find out about other small but dangerous creatures here: listverse.com

Tsetse flies are about 2-3cm long, and come from certain areas in Africa. They mostly bite humans and cows, drinking blood from other living animals as their nutrition source. Some tsetse flies are infected with a parasite that is injected into the blood when the tsetse fly bites, and this parasite can cause African sleeping sickness.

If you are interested in finding out more check out these pages for more facts: who.int and wikipedia.org/African_trypanosomiasis

The parasite can be spread to people and other tsetse flies through the bites of other infected animals. Tsetse fly bites can be very severe, leaving sore and swollen marks on the skin. The parasite can cleverly avoid the protection that our immune system gives us and eventually invade our central nervous system. Although it is lethal without proper treatment, there are drugs available to treat the disease, but most of these are as poisonous to us as to the parasite and the side effects of the drugs can be as severe as damage to our internal organs.

Symptoms of the African sleeping sickness in its initial stage can be flu-like, e.g. fever, rash and weakness, and it is often mistakenly treated as normal flu. Mistreatment at this stage gives the parasite an opportunity to work its way through the body, causing severe neurological disorders, and those infected will end up in a coma and eventually die. Tourists coming back from Africa who get these symptoms would usually get it checked out at an Infectious Disease Centre (e.g. http://www.cid.ed.ac.uk/) or a hospital that is dedicated to treating these diseases.

In addition to African sleeping sickness, there are other tropical parasites that can cause diseases such as Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis.

If you are keen to find out more about parasitic diseases, these are some of the jobs you could do:

• A research scientist – exploring the unknown scope of a subject
• A university lecturer – teaching more young people about the disease and encouraging them to continue studying the topic
• A pharmacologist – working on new improved and efficient drugs to cure the disease safely
• A data analyst – collecting data from epidemic areas of Africa to help those doing clinical research
• A hospital doctor or nurse – working on the front lines helping fight the disease