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Less than 10% of those infected with Chagas disease receive timely diagnosis

Washington, DC, April 13, 2022 (PAHO), Because of its silent nature, less than 10% of people infected with Chagas disease each year receive timely diagnosis and, therefore, effective treatment in Mexico, Central America, and South America, where the disease occurs in 6 to 8 years. million people, most of whom live in areas of poverty and high levels of transmission.

On World Chagas Disease Day on April 14, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is calling on countries to step up efforts to diagnose all suspected cases. It is estimated that 70% of those affected are unaware that they have been infected. The theme for 2022 is to find and report every case to defeat Chagas disease.

Chagas disease is a potentially fatal parasitic disease caused by the microorganism Trypanosoma cruzi. It is transmitted to humans by insects – known as vinchuca, kissing worms, or chirimacha, by blood transfusion or organ transplantation, by consuming contaminated food, and during pregnancy and labor.

Dr. Marcos Espinal, Director of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health at PAHO, said, “Efforts by countries in the region to prevent and control vector transmission, which began in the 1990s, show that the end of Chagas disease possible.” “This World Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of Chagas disease and to double down on actions to prevent, detect, treat and break the chain of transmission,” he said

Of the 21 countries in the region where Chagas disease is endemic, 17 have managed to interrupt vector-borne transmission in homes at a national or subnational level. The annual death toll has also dropped from an estimated 45,000 in 1990 to 10,000 today, and the population exposed to these insects has declined from about 100 million to 70 million over the past 30 years.

About 8,000 babies are born with Chagas each year in the region, making mother-to-child transmission the main route of infection and spread in countries that have controlled vector-borne transmission, improving housing standards and implemented universal screening in blood banks.

“If we want to defeat Chagas disease, we must sustain efforts to eliminate vector transmission in countries that have not yet achieved it, promoting universal Chagas screening for all women of reproductive age And those who test positive should be offered free treatment,” Dr. Luis Gerardo Castellanos, head of PAHO’s Neglected Infectious Diseases Unit. In addition, “pregnant women with Chagas should be monitored early in their pregnancy and treated after giving birth. Their newborns should be tested and treated if found positive,”

Chagas disease has spread from rural to urban areas and crossed the borders of Latin America by humans traveling to countries and continents that are unaware of the disease, and where transmission occurs through blood transfusion or congenital transmission. that affects thousands of people.

It is estimated that up to 30% of patients with chronic disease may develop complications in the long term, which can have irreversible and chronic consequences for the digestive system and heart. However, if detected early, the disease can be cured, or its clinical course can be improved. In the chronic phase, treatment can slow or delay its progression.

PAHO is working to strengthen the ability of health professionals to diagnose and treat disease in a timely and appropriate manner in all suspected populations, particularly women and newborns, so that Chagas disease is passed from mother to child and three transmission of other diseases can be eliminated. These efforts are part of a PAHO initiative that seeks to eliminate Chagas disease and other infectious diseases by 2030.

Chagas Disease in America in Numbers

  • The disease is endemic in 21 countries in the region.
  • About 70 million people in the region are at risk of contracting the disease from the bite of an insect vector that transmits Chagas.
  • 7 out of 10 people with Chagas are unaware of their condition
  • More than 10,000 people die each year due to clinical complications of the disease.
  • Chagas disease is almost 100% curable if treated in the early, acute stage.
  • Between 2 and 8% of pregnant women infected with Chagas disease can pass it on to their babies.
  • All 21 endemic countries conduct universal screening of blood donors
  • The average prevalence of blood bank donors with Chagas in Latin America is 0.2%.

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