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Beware the Tsetse Fly

Sleeping sickness is all too real

It might seem like something out of a 1950s horror movie: An intrepid explorer heads into deepest Africa and becomes deathly ill from the bite of the tiny tsetse fly. But it's no screenwriter's dream, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

African sleeping sickness, or trypanosomiasis, is real and if you become infected, the treatment requires hospitalization and spinal taps for two years. You're most susceptible if you visit or work in rural areas of Africa, like game parks. Symptoms begin a week or more after a bite and include swollen lymph nodes, a red sore at the site of the bite, fatigue, chills, headache and personality changes.

With no medical treatment, death will occur in several weeks to months.

To minimize your risk, the CDC says you should: Wear long sleeves and long pants; wear khaki- or olive-colored clothing because the tsetse fly is attracted to bright and dark colors; use bed nets when sleeping; inspect vehicles for the fly before entering; avoid riding in the back of open vehicles because the dust kicked up attracts the insect, and avoid bushes because the tsetse rests in them during the hottest part of the day.

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