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World Chagas Disease Day

  • 17 Apr 2023
  • 3 min read

Why in News?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) observes World Chagas Disease Day every April 14th to raise awareness about the little-known disease that affects millions of people, especially in Latin America.

  • The 72nd World Health Assembly dedicated this day to the disease in 2019.
  • This year’s theme is “time to integrate Chagas disease into primary health care”.

What is Chagas Disease?

  • About:
    • Chagas disease, also known as "silent or silenced disease", is a communicable parasitic disease that infects 6-7 million people and claims around 12,000 lives every year worldwide, according to WHO.
      • The disease is named after physician Carlos Chagas who first detected it in a Brazilian child in 1909.
  • Causes:
    • It is caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, transmitted by a family of bugs called ‘triatomines’ or ‘kissing bugs’ that infect healthy individuals through bites or defecation.
    • It can also be contracted through congenital transmission, blood transfusions, organ transplantation, consumption of uncooked food contaminated with fecal matter of infected bugs, or accidental laboratory exposure.
      • It cannot propagate by casual contact with infected humans or animals.
  • Symptoms:
    • The disease manifests as fever, headaches, rashes, inflammatory nodules, nausea or diarrhea, and muscle or abdominal pain. 4
      • 70-80% of patients show no symptoms throughout their lives, making early detection challenging.
    • 20-30% of infections evolve into the chronic stage, causing damage to the heart, digestive system, or nervous system.
  • Prevalence:
    • Chagas is currently endemic in 21 countries in the Americas, with an annual average incidence of 30,000 new cases, according to the Pan-American Health Organization.
  • Treatment and Prevention:
    • There are currently no vaccines available for Chagas disease, but antiparasitic medicines Benznidazole and Nifurtimox can treat the disease. They have a 100% efficacy rate if administered at the onset of the acute stage.
    • Preventive measures have been put in place by countries to eliminate the bugs or reduce infections.
      • Universal screening of blood donors and blood products is done by all Latin American countries and other countries reporting new cases.

Source: DTE

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