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Vector transmission of Chagas interrupted in 17 out of 21 countries in Americas

Washington, May 8 (UNI) With vector transmission of Chagas interrupted in 17 out of 21 affected countries in the Americas, and screening for the disease in blood banks universalised, the future of the fight against the disease must now focus on maintaining achievements and preventing congenital transmission.

This was the conclusion of a meeting convened by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) in Washington on May 3-4 to discuss the current status of Chagas, as well as future management of the disease, a WHO American Region report on Tuesday said.

“The region has made considerable advances in addressing Chagas since the 1990s, and this meeting has marked a point of inflection at a time when the dynamics and epidemiology of the disease has changed,” said Luis Gerardo Castellanos, Head of the Neglected, Tropical and Vector-borne diseases Unit at PAHO/WHO.

“The occurrence of new cases has reduced in all countries, but around six million people still live with the disease, many of whom are unaware of their status. The migration of people from endemic areas to urban areas also means that we must take measures to detect and treat everyone affected, including those in cities,” he said.

Chagas is a parasitic, systemic, and chronic disease caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. The parasites are mainly transmitted to humans by triatomine bugs, known as “kissing bugs,” but can also be transmitted via blood transfusions, organ transplants, the consumption of contaminated food, and from mother to child during gestation.

It is estimated that there are 30,000 new reported cases of Chagas each year in the Americas and 14,000 people die as a result of the disease. More than 70 million people live in areas where there is high-risk of transmission.

"Chagas is a silent disease that tends to pass undetected, either by health care professionals with little experience in its diagnosis, or by patients themselves, who experience few if any symptoms,” explained Roberto Salvatella, PAHO/WHO Regional Advisor for the Prevention and Control of Chagas.

“We need to integrate the treatment of Chagas into the health system of each country so that healthcare workers are better aware of the disease and can provide necessary treatment,” he added.

It is estimated that in the long term, 30 per cent of chronic infections will develop complications that will have serious and irreversible consequences on the nervous system, the digestive system and the heart. If the disease is detected in time, however, it can be cured and prognosis improved. Even if diagnosed during the chronic phase, treatment can still prevent or delay its progress.

UNI XC-BM SNU 1634

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