Brazil: Tackling a complex disease
By Paulo Gadelba, President of Fiocruz & Tania Araujo-Jorge, Director of the Institute Oswaldo Cruz.
Since its discovery in 1909, progress in fighting Chagas disease has been made. But many challenges still lie ahead.
In Brazil, an estimated four million people suffer from chronic Chagas; 600,000 people have developed heart or gastrointestinal complications; and each year 5,000 people succumb to the disease. In absolute values, the number of deaths caused by Chagas disease in Brazil is on a par with those caused by tuberculosis, and is ten times higher than the combined number of fatalities resulting from schistosomiasis (a parasitic disease caused by trematode flatworms of the genus Schistosoma), malaria, leprosy, and leishmaniasis. The disease mainly affects people between 30 and 60 years of age. Because this is the working population, the loss of earnings and the inability to work have a major social and economic impact. Moreover, the disease afflicts mostly the poor and, given its serious impact, leads to a vicious circle in which poverty is perpetuated and aggravated.
Vector control in Brazil was on the forefront of the agenda. In 2006, Brazil was certified by WHO as having interrupted the transmission of the disease
The discovery and the consequences
Major challenges ahead to tackle a complex disease
Helping the affected: Chagas patients' association in Brazil
Manoel do Nascimento is the President of the first officially registered Chagas disease patients’ association in the world. He, himself, suffers from Chagas disease. But he only came to know about it when the disease began to affect his heart about a decade ago. As a result of serious complications, he has recently undergone surgery to implant his sixth pacemaker. He is leading a patients’ association that was founded in 1987 in the Chagas disease clinic of the Oswaldo Cruz University Hospital (HUOC) at the University of Pernambuco, in Recife. The association offers legal, social and psychological assistance to more than 2,800 Chagas patients. The work is conducted with help from volunteers and receives very little assistance from the government, the medical community, the public, or the press. Most of the association’s resources come from donations, which allows it to distribute food assistance and medication that is not available through the public healthcare system.
More info: www.chagas.org.br
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