The World Health Organization recently announced that Chad has eliminated the flying tropical disease human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness.

Deletion marks a milestone for the agency’s program Neglected Tropical Diseases. WHO hopes to eliminate such diseases, which disproportionately affect poor and rural populations in 100 countries. Chad is the 51st country to successfully eradicate such a disease, the agency said in a news release liberation.

Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is caused by parasites and transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly. The disease can take months or more than a year to progress, first causing flu-like symptoms and then invading the central nervous system. HAT can cause behavioral changes and disrupt sleep, trigger aggression and other symptoms. If left untreated, it is almost always fatal. Because there is no vaccine to prevent the disease, eradication efforts generally focus on controlling tsetse flies and preventing fly bites.

The disease is named after two types of parasites. Campion’s form is the most common and accounts for 92 percent of cases. So far, Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana and Chad have eliminated the disease. The other variant, the Rhodesian form, was eliminated in Rwanda.

HAT was once very rare, with only 4,435 cases reported in Africa in 1964. But the disease resurfaced in the second half of the 20th century as developing African countries suffered wars and political and social instability, and by 1998 the WHO counted 37,991 new cases per year.

Chad eliminated HAT with improved surveillance, testing and pest control, WHO reports. “This achievement is the result of years of dedicated efforts by our health workers, communities and partners,” Chad Health Minister Abdel Mojid Abderahim Mohamed said in a news release. “Let’s continue this momentum to tackle other neglected tropical diseases and ensure a healthy future for all Chadians.”

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