What is Chagas disease?

Chagas disease is a parasitic infection caused by contact with the faeces of infected blood-sucking insects (called kissing bugs) which infest people’s homes. Chagas disease can also be passed on by eating food contaminated by kissing bugs, through blood transfusions or organ transplants, or to children during birth.

After an often mild acute phase of a few weeks – with non-specific symptoms such as fever, body aches, rashes, diarrhoea and vomiting – most people will go a long time without showing any signs of the disease, and are often unaware they have the illness. An estimated 30% to 40% of infected people will eventually develop serious complications, including heart disease and enlargement of the colon and oesophagus, which can incapacitate and quite frequently result in death.

People affected by Chagas disease

Six - seven million are infected with Chagas disease 21 countries in Latin American are endemic 75 million people are at risk of infection

WHO NTD roadmap targets for Chagas disease

The World Health Organization’s roadmap on NTDs set out a comprehensive plan for the control, elimination and eradication of various neglected tropical diseases by 2020, including Chagas disease.

Chagas disease target: Control by 2020

  • By 2015, interrupted transmission by blood transfusion in the Americas, European and Western Pacific regions
  • By 2020, interrupted transmission by intra-domiciliary vectors in Latin America

Estimated number of people living with Chagas disease (2010 data)

Number of chronic cases of Chagas disease detected through medical health care systems in endemic countries of the Americas

Sources

  • Data is provided by the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization
  • Photo: Chagas Coalition / Ana Ferreira