The World Health Organization says that the focus of this year’s World Chagas Disease Day observation is expanding awareness of Chagas and on “providing access to crucial care and implementing disease surveillance, at the primary health care level.”
The Centers for Disease Control says Chagas is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to animals and people by insects.
It is often referred to as a silent killer because if it is not detected early, it can cause serious heart and digestive problems and can be fatal.
It is found mainly in Latin America, but according to WHO, it has been detected elsewhere, including the United States, Canada, some European countries and some African, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific countries.
WHO reports 6 million to 7 million people worldwide are infected with Chagas and 30,000 to 40,000 new cases are detected yearly. Approximately 12,000 Chagas-related deaths are reported annually.
The disease is named after Carlos Justiniano Chagas, a Brazilian doctor who discovered the disease in 1909.