ZIMBABWE Parks and Wildlife Management Authority says sleeping sickness infections were on the rise in tsetse fly-infested Zambezi valley.
REPORT BY EVERSON MUSHAVA CHIEF REPORTER
Six new cases had been reported this year, three of which were recorded last month alone, an official said.
Victims included two tourists and a professional hunter, while a ranger succumbed to the disease last year.
Sleeping sickness is a tropical disease spread by the bite of an infected tsetse fly.
It attacks the central nervous system and can kill if one is not treated in time.
Parks spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo said her organisation was concerned with the increase in cases of the disease and urged the government, through the Tsetse Control Division, to urgently implement a control programme in the Zambezi valley to save lives of rangers and tourists.
Tsetse flies are most commonly found in Mana Pools, Chewore, Matusadona, National Parks, Sapi, Hurungwe, Dande and Charara Safari areas where parks officers spend most of their time conducting anti-poaching activities.
Part of Mana Pools is globally recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site with a large traffic of tourists.
“This will not only save the lives of parks staff, but other residents and tourists visiting the area,” Washaya-Moyo said.
She said more worrying was the fact that there were no health facilitates in the Zambezi valley — which is also prone to malaria — to immediately attend to victims.
As a result, most Zimbabweans have to cross over to Zambia for medical treatment.
Most of the people diagnosed of the disease, Washaya-Moyo said, were admitted at Mutenderi Mission Hospital in Zambia and others were referred to University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka in the event that the situation deteriorated. She said all victims who had been referred to Zambia were successfully treated.
“We do have health centres this side of the boarder, but most of the time, there is an acute shortage of drugs in the Zambezi valley,” she said.