For the first time, the global community is preparing to celebrate 14 April as the first World Chagas Disease Day. One of the aims is to raise the visibility and public awareness of people with Chagas Disease and the resources needed for the prevention, control or elimination of the disease.
Chagas disease, also called American trypanosomiasis, has been termed as a “silent and silenced disease”, not only because of its slowly progressing and frequently asymptomatic clinical course but also because it affects mainly poor people who have no political voice or access to health care.
Once endemic in Latin American countries, Chagas disease is now present in many others, making it a global health problem.
It was on this date in 1909 that the first patient, a Brazilian girl named Berenice Soares de Moura, was diagnosed for this disease by Dr Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas.
Raising awareness and the profile of this neglected tropical disease, which is often diagnosed in its late stages, is essential to improve the rates of early treatment and cure, together with the interruption of its transmission.
Evidence-based, cost-effective interventions exist, including screening (blood, organs and of new-borns and children), early case detection, prompt treatment of cases, vector control, hygiene and food safety.
WHO invites the countries to take action with us and add a global voice in favour of this and other neglected tropical diseases.
Did you know?
- Chagas disease is prevalent mainly among poor populations of continental Latin America and affects 6–7 million people.
- During the past decades, it has been increasingly detected in the United States of America and Canada and in many European and some Western Pacific countries.
- The disease can be transmitted by vectorial transmission (T. cruzi parasites are mainly transmitted by contact with faeces/urine of infected blood-sucking triatomine bugs. These bugs, vectors that carry the parasites, typically live in the wall or roof cracks of poorly-constructed homes in rural or suburban areas. Normally they hide during the day and become active at night when they feed on human blood. They usually bite an exposed area of skin such as the face, and the bug defecates close to the bite. The parasites enter the body when the person instinctively smears the bug faeces or urine into the bite, the eyes, the mouth, or into any skin break) contaminated food, transfusion of blood or blood products, passage from an infected mother to her newborn, and organ transplantation and even laboratory accidents.
- Without treatment, Chagas disease can lead to severe cardiac and digestive alterations and become fatal.
The proposal to designate 14 April as World Chagas Disease Day was initiated by the International Federation of Associations of People Affected by Chagas Disease.
On 24 May 2019, the World Health Assembly – WHO’s decision-making body – endorsed the proposal, which was supported by several health institutions, universities, research centres, national or international nongovernmental platforms, organizations and foundations.
Celebrating World Chagas Disease Day on 14 April will provide a unique opportunity to add a global voice in favour of this and other neglected tropical diseases.