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US: Doctors advocate fresh efforts to combat Chagas disease, a silent killer

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  • US: Doctors advocate fresh efforts to combat Chagas disease, a silent killer

    Source: https://www.inquirer.com/health/chag...-20230829.html

    Doctors advocate fresh efforts to combat Chagas disease, a silent killer
    Chagas disease affects people primarily in rural Latin America. But it’s increasingly present in the United States, where it often goes unrecognized.​

    When Maira Gutiérrez was diagnosed with Chagas disease in 1997, neither she nor her primary care physician had even heard of the malady. She discovered her illness only by chance, after participating in a Red Cross blood drive organized by her employer, Universal Studios.

    The Red Cross tests donated blood for a range of diseases, including Chagas, which is caused by a parasite and can develop silently for decades before causing symptoms. The test detected Chagas in her body, and an MRI years later, in 2013, confirmed it had reached her heart.

    “They showed me the image with the trace of the parasite to my heart. It was really scary,” Gutiérrez, originally from El Salvador, said in Spanish. Now 50, she remains healthy but undergoes a battery of tests annually to monitor for heart damage.​..

    ...The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 300,000 people living in the U.S. have Chagas, though lack of awareness and testing means only 1% of cases have been identified.

    Doctors, researchers, and patient advocates say the nation could be doing far more to combat Chagas, which causes serious heart disease in an estimated 30% of infected people and can also lead to crippling digestive problems such as enlargement of the esophagus and colon. They are pushing for increased access to testing and treatment and are optimistic about a new drug that’s set for human trials next year. A bill in Congress to up funding for rare diseases, which supporters hope will be debated in the fall, could help too.​..
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