Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chagas alert issued by WHO

It was around this time last year that the swine flu/H1N1 outbreak became front page news worldwide. The disease may have claimed the lives of thousands of people according to one estimate while focus was placed on Mexico due to its high level of cases.

The attention and resources mobilized in 2009 to combat swine flu/H1N1 distracted from other deadly yet underreported diseases throughout the Americas such as the dengue fever. More recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning to travelers regarding Chagas disease- an ailment that can become “potentially life-threatening.” An estimated 10 million people are infected worldwide, according to the WHO, especially in Latin America where the disease used to be contained.

Within the Americas several countries like Brazil, Chile and Uruguay have been active in trying to control spreading of Chagas. Nonetheless there have been outbreaks in recent years like in Venezuela, where the growth of Chagas infections has become a political talking point:
Chagas is increasing steadily in Venezuela, said Dr. Oscar Noya of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, who blamed human encroachment on the kissing bug’s environment. More worrying still is that the kissing bug appears to be adapting to human habitats, he said…

For critics of the government, the increase in cases of Chagas is not only a sign of neglect of a previously successful program of control through fumigation, but also an indicator that President Hugo Chavez’s socialist government’s assertion that it has dramatically reduced poverty is not as watertight as it claims.
While there is no vaccine for Chagas the parasite that carries it can be eradicated if diagnosed in its early stages.

Image- Anthropology Works
Online Sources- Wikipedia, BBC News, DNA, The Latin Americanist, WHO, El Mundo, scidev.net, Global Post

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