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Human African trypanosomiasis in a rural community, Democratic Republic of Congo

P Lutumba, E. Makieya, A. Shaw, F. Meheus, M. Boelaert

According to the World Health Organization, human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) (sleeping sickness) caused the loss of ≈1.5 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in 2002. We describe the effect of HAT during 2000–2002 in Buma, a rural community near Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We used retrospective questionnaire surveys to estimate HAT-related household costs and DALYs. The HAT outbreak in Buma involved 57 patients and affected 47 (21%) households. The cost to each household was equivalent to 5 months’ income for that household. The total number of HAT-related DALYs was 2,145, and interventions to control HAT averted 1,408 DALYs. The cost per DALY averted was US $17. Because HAT has a serious economic effect on households and control interventions are cost-effective, considering only global burden of disease rankings for resource allocation could lead to misguided priority setting if applied without caution in HAT-affected countries.