Skeptic News: Sleeping Sickness Superstition

Tropical disease eats into the brain, but locals blame it on witchcraft.

An outbreak of “sleeping sickness” or Human African trypanosomiasis, which is transmitted by tsetse flies, has been mistaken for witchcraft in Chad. Health officials have said that around 3,300 people were infected between 2001 and 2011 in the landlocked central African nation, one of the poorest in the world. Doctor Peka Mallaye, who is in charge of the national programme to fight the disease said:

“With more than 100 cases per year Chad is considered an endemic country,”

However combating the disease involves more than diagnosis and treatment superstitious beliefs, long standing in Chads culture, must also be addressed. For the people living in Chad’s rural communities, the strange symptoms of sleeping sickness have long been shrouded in superstition about witchcraft and demonic possession. It is a challenge for health officials and campaigners to raise awareness of the medical, not supernatural, nature of this disease.

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