Efforts being made to eliminate chagas disease in Guyana – Dr Anthony

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Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony says Guyana has recorded very low cases of chagas disease, but efforts are being made to eliminate it in Guyana.

Chagas disease also called the American trypanosomiasis, is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. April 14 has been designated as World Chagas Disease Day to raise awareness about the disease.

Dr. Anthony said chagas is considered a “neglected disease” and the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified it as one that should be eliminated by 2030. Earlier this year, the WHO outlined a plan for countries affected by the vector borne disease, to eliminate it.

“We’ve had chagas in Guyana for a while, but we don’t have a lot of cases. I think on average we probably would get maybe 150 to 200 cases,” he said.

Chagas disease is transmitted through the bite of a bug, which is known as the “kissing bug” with mouthparts that penetrate blood vessels.

Minister Anthony said during the acute phase, which lasts for six weeks after infection, a person may experience swelling at the site, fever, and fatigue, along with enlargement of the spleen or liver. Persons with chagas disease are mostly asymptomatic and it can take decades before an infected person develops chronic clinical manifestations.

“The parasite lives in their body for a long period of time, and in some cases, if they are not treated, that parasite continues to live with them, maybe 15 to 20 years.

But it will do underlying damage, and so after this prolonged period in the chronic phase, you will see patients who would have maybe heart problems, and in some cases, they would have problems of their digestive tract,” he said.

Dr. Anthony said it is important to identify the areas of prevalence for the disease to eliminate it. As such, the Ministry’s Vector Control Unit has formulated a plan to reduce its prevalence, and ultimately work towards its elimination.

“One of the strategies that can help and probably because we have been using this – it has caused the drop in the cases that we are seeing – is the use of mosquito nets that are impregnated with insecticide.

Because if you use that to protect yourself from malaria it also protects from other insects. We have been over the years, distributing insecticide impregnated bed nets to communities especially in the interior, where people might be affected with malaria,” he said.

The Ministry will soon be rolling out a programme that will see the distribution of 15,000 impregnated bed nets to interior communities. While this is part of the malaria campaign, it will also aid in the prevention of the chagas disease. [Extracted and Modified from DPI]