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Acta Trop. 2010 Jul-Aug;115(1-2):14-21. doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2009.11.003. Epub 2009 Nov 20.

Chagas disease: a Latin American health problem becoming a world health problem.

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Health Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 525 23th Street N.W., Washington, DC 20037, USA.


Political repression and/or economic stagnation stimulated the flow of migration from the 17 Latin American countries endemic for Chagas disease to developed countries. Because of this migration, Chagas disease, an autochthonous disease of the Continental Western Hemisphere is becoming a global health problem. In 2006, 3.8% of the 80,522 immigrants from those 17 countries to Australia were likely infected with Trypanosoma cruzi. In Canada in 2006, 3.5% of the 156,960 immigrants from Latin America whose country of origin was identified were estimated to have been infected. In Japan in 2007, there were 80,912 immigrants from Brazil, 15,281 from Peru, and 19,413 from other South American countries whose country of origin was not identified, a portion of whom may have been also infected. In 15 countries of Europe in 2005, excluding Spain, 2.9% of the 483,074 legal Latin American immigrants were estimated to be infected with T. cruzi. By 2008, Spain had received 1,678,711 immigrants from Latin American endemic countries; of these, 5.2% were potentially infected with T. cruzi and 17,390 may develop Chagas disease. Further, it was estimated that 24-92 newborns delivered by South American T. cruzi infected mothers in Spain may have been congenitally infected with T. cruzi in 2007. In the USA we estimated that 1.9% of approximately 13 million Latin American immigrants in 2000, and 2% of 17 million in 2007, were potentially infected with T. cruzi. Of these, 49,157 and 65,133 in 2000 and 2007 respectively, may have or may develop symptoms and signs of chronic Chagas disease. Governments should implement policies to prevent donations of blood and organs from T. cruzi infected donors. In addition, an infrastructure that assures detection and treatment of acute and chronic cases as well as congenital infection should be developed.

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