On this Tuesday, April 14th is celebrated for the first time as the World Chagas Day, after being recognized in 2019 by the World Health Organization (WHO). To mark the day that remembers the first case diagnosed in humans by Fiocruz researcher Carlos Chagas, in 1909, leaders of Global Health have prepared a video.
It is estimated that 6 to 7 million people worldwide suffer from Chagas disease, between 2 and 3 million of them live in Brazil. World Day reminds us that these people need access to early diagnosis and adequate treatment. As we face the pandemic of the new coronavirus, these patients face an extra challenge, as many of them are amongst the population groups that are vulnerable to the COVID-19.
Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is mostly transmitted through the feces of the triatomine bug, commonly known under several names such as “vinchucas”, “chinches” or “pitos”, and found in the southern United States and all over Latin America. Other common transmission routes are from mother to child during pregnancy, oral, through blood transfusions, and organ transplants. The different transmission routes, together with migratory flows over the last few decades, have made the disease a global challenge.
The disease is endemic in 21 countries in The Americas, with Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico being the countries with the largest number of affected people. In non-endemic areas, the disease is present on all continents. The largest number of people affected is found in the United States and Spain.
Approximately 30% of those who become infected with Chagas disease develop serious complications, mainly affecting the heart, and also leading to neurological and gastrointestinal disorders at a lesser level.
Every year, close to 9,000 children are born with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes the death of more than 12,000 people each year. It is also estimated that more than 75 million people worldwide are at risk of becoming infected. This is why diagnostic and early treatment are crucial, with current treatments achieving very good results.
World Chagas Day was established last year during the World Health Assembly, with support of Fiocruz, to reverse more than a hundred years of silence and lack of visibility around Chagas disease.