On 20 June 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Equatorial Guinea has become the latest country to eliminate the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness, as a public health problem within its borders. HAT has two principal forms, referred to as gambiense and rhodesiense, and is generally transmitted through contact with infected tsetse flies.
The general incidence of the gambiense form of HAT has reduced sharply this century. In 2021, 750 cases were reported in 11 endemic countries representing a 95% reduction from the 26,095 cases reported in 2001. Equatorial Guinea now joins the list of countries which have seen elimination of the disease as a public health problem validated by WHO recently, these being Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Uganda.
Longstanding work and commitment by the Ministry of Health of Equatorial Guinea, through its HAT National Control Program (PNCTHA), has allowed the country to reach the threshold established for validating elimination, which is defined as fewer than one case per 10,000 inhabitants on average, over the last five years, in all the country’s health districts. Validation of elimination requires countries to submit extensive dossiers to WHO, which are assessed by an independent group of experts, who determine if the criteria for elimination as a public health problem have been met.
The WHO say elimination of gambiense HAT as a public health problem is an important step on the road to achieving the more ambitious goal of elimination of transmission. Equatorial Guinea has committed to maintaining its surveillance capacity, ensuring that screening and diagnosis continues in populations at risk of contracting the disease, while maintaining adequate treatment for any new cases detected, and to controlling tsetse fly populations.
Source: WHO, 20 June 2022