Making the acquaintance of tsetse flies, transmitters of the sleeping sickness and pretty aggressive insects, you will not be overjoyed, that's for sure. Unfortunately you won't be able to avoid this meeting, visiting the tropical regions of Africa. These winged little monsters delight to lurk in the green banks of rivers and lakes or in the thicket of dry veld. Suddenly they ambush passing cars and their occupants, watching out for calm places, where they sit down and try to place their achy bite. Depending on the sensitivity of the flys victim and the location of the affected area, impressive swellings (oedema) may show up within the next few days. They aditionally can be accompanied by blisters filled with lymphatic liquid. These blisters, developping into a considerable single blister, may even cause a detachment of your skin to the flesh. A single tsetse bite is able to provoke an extensive swelling of a whole foot, leg, hand or even part of the face. And there is no remedy that helps to cure the persistent swellings nor the terrible itching. No matter if you try some antihistaminic, cortisone or just ice, it'll be in vain - time is the only effective healer.

Attention: the mentionned symptoms may occur due to an allergic reaction but they also might be the first indications for a successful transmission of trypanosomes, which cause the sleeping sickness. This clinical picture is called trypanosomal chancre. I don't want to frighten you, but please watch your body. Even if the dermal symptoms change for the better within the next days, but - shortly afterwards - you feel as if you had a flu: Consult a doctor at the slightest suspicion! That's as much more important travelling the southern and eastern parts of Africa: the south-eastern form of Trypanosomiasis (T. brucei rhodesiense) proceeds a lot faster than the west-african form (T. gambiense). Unfortunately these nasty parasites don't adhere to borders and thus T. gambiense also frequently appears in Central and East Africa. Therefore let yourself check by a doctor anyhow.

And here we are again: The only means to avoid an infection (besides staying at home) is exposition prophylaxis. In the course of several field experiments I have tested a whole series of oils, tinctures, sprays and gels - they all turned out to be a complete failure. The only substance showing a slight touch of effect was DEET (Diethyl-M-Toluamide), using concentrations higher than 40%. But even applying these highly dosed repellents doesn't offer a complete protection.

Assuming the classic safari posture - bottom half of the body in the car, upper part outside - only provides parts of the body with wind, the natural enemy of tsetse flies. In my experience the only efficient solution is to wear tsetse-proof clothes. Leather boots, covering the ankles, trousers and shirts made of tightly woven impregnated fabrics (e. g. Fjällrävens G-1000 series) and neckerchiefs should be basic equipment. Travelling tsetse-contaminated areas, it's even advisable to wear leather gloves and a hat with a fine mesh net.

The motto is to cover every single part of your body, even at the risk of looking a bit ridiculous. That's not only because tsetse bites are dangerous - they also can really muck up your holiday!

For further tsetse-informations please see the following pages


If you'd like to share your experiences please feel free to contact me or write them down my visitors' book.