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Chagas disease

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  • Chagas disease

    <TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=5 width=600 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD align=right width=155>08:45, November 07, 2007</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
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    Chagas disease, a growing health threat in America
    Chagas disease, a deadly parasitic illness, has prompted U.S. health officials to take steps to cope the growing threat.

    The illness has long been the leading cause of heart failure in Latin America and is now being seen in immigrant communities in the United States.

    As part of efforts to curtail the illness spread, a Los Angeles County hospital has opened the U.S. first clinic devoted to studying and treating Chagas disease.

    By the end of October, 253 people in 30 states had tested positive for antibodies to the parasite, the Los Angeles Times quoted the American Association of Blood Banks as saying on Tuesday.

    The prevalence nationwide is estimated to be about 1 in 30,000 donors, and about 1 in 7,000 in Los Angeles, said Dr. Susan Stramer, executive scientific officer for the American Red Cross.

    Experts say that unless Chagas is treated early, little can bed one to halt its advance. Yet because 10 to 20 years can pass before heart or gastrointestinal complications develop, many people don't realize they're infected with what has been called a silent killer.

    Like Lyme disease or malaria, Chagas is a vector-borne illness, meaning that it is transmitted by insects, not person-to-person contact. For Chagas, the insect is a winged, blood-sucking creature commonly called a conenose, or kissing bug, because it feeds at night, often on uncovered faces.

    An estimated 8 million to 11 million people in Central and South America and Mexico are infected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Chagas is most common in poor, rural areas, where adobe houses with cracked walls, thatched roofs or dirt floors allow the bugs easy entry.

    The parasitic illness can also pass from mother to child at birth and through blood or organ transfusions, which have become the main source of infection in Latin American cities.

    In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a test for screening the blood supply by testing for antibodies to the parasite. The American Red Cross and Phoenix-based Blood Systems, which collect about 65 percent of the U.S. blood supply, have been using the test since January.

    "We've been suspecting that the number was going to be large, but finding that it is large is still surprising," said Dr. James H. Maquire former chief of the parasitic diseases branch at the CDC and now director of international health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Screening the blood supply was the absolutely right thing to do."

    Before the test was developed, the CDC knew of 10 people in the U.S. who were infected from transfusions or organ transplants, including two heart transplant recipients in Los Angeles. The two transplant patients later died, though not directly from Chagas, the CDC said.

    Most donors who tested positive since screening began this year emigrated from high-risk areas, sometimes years ago, or were the children of such immigrants, U.S. Red Cross officials said. But in nine cases still under investigation, infection may have been transmitted by insects in the United States.

    Source: Xinhua

  • #2
    Re: Chagas disease

    More on Chagas here:
    ?Addressing chronic disease is an issue of human rights ? that must be our call to arms"
    Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief The Lancet

    ~~~~ Twitter:@GertvanderHoek ~~~ ~~~