Background: Human African trypanosomiasis is a severely neglected vector-borne disease that is always fatal if untreated. In Tanzania it is highly focalised and of major socio-economic and public health importance in affected communities.
Objectives: This study aimed to estimate the public health burden of rhodesiense HAT in terms of DALYs and financial costs in a highly disease endemic area of Tanzania using hospital records.
Materials and Methods: Data was obtained from 143 patients admitted in 2004 for treatment for HAT at Kaliua Health Centre, Urambo District. The direct medical and other indirect costs incurred by individual patients and by the health services were calculated. DALYs were estimated using methods recommended by the Global Burden of Disease Project as well as those used in previous rhodesiense HAT estimates assuming HAT under reporting of 45%, a figure specific for Tanzania.
Results: The DALY estimate for HAT in Urambo District with and without age-weighting were 215.7 (95% CI: 155.3-287.5) and 281.6 (95% CI: 209.1-362.6) respectively. When 45% under-reporting was included, the results were 622.5 (95% CI: 155.3-1098.9) and 978.9 (95% CI: 201.1-1870.8) respectively. The costs of treating 143 patients in terms of admission costs, diagnosis, hospitalization and sleeping sickness drugs were estimated at US$ 15,514, of which patients themselves paid US$ 3,673 and the health services US$ 11,841. The burden in terms of indirect non-medical costs for the 143 patients was estimated at US$ 9,781.
Conclusions: This study shows that HAT imposes a considerable burden on affected rural communities in Tanzania and stresses the urgent need for location-and disease-specific burden estimates tailored to particular rural settings in countries like Tanzania where a considerable number of infectious diseases are prevalent and, due to their focal nature, are often concentrated in certain locations where they impose an especially high burden.