No congenital cases have been reported in the Region in the last two years.
The Murcia Health Service (SMS) will include the Chagas disease diagnostic test for all pregnant women during the first trimester of pregnancy. This initiative reinforces others that are already being implemented in the Region of Murcia to eradicate this disease, which is transmitted through the bite of a bug, as sources of the regional Government reported in a release.
Screening of a pregnant woman detects congenital disease early and facilitates treatment of the new-born; if the baby is infected, treatment is 100% effective. Screening also facilities the approach targeting women of childbearing age and girls to prevent vertical transmission of this disease, the only Chagas disease transmission mode in Spain. The disease is easily diagnosed through a blood test. The sooner the test is done, the better the patient’s prognosis.
Last Wednesday, Juan José Pedreño, regional Minister of Health, met with Manuel Segovia, head of Microbiology Service and the Tropical Medicine Unit of the Virgen de la Arrixaca Hospital, on the occasion of the World Chagas Disease Day, which aims to make visible those people suffering from this disease and raise community awareness about the disease and the resources necessary for its prevention, control or elimination.
The Region of Murcia is a pioneer and a world example recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the comprehensive treatment of Chagas disease and in the commitment to preventing transmission. The goal is to interrupt transmission of this disease by 2026. No cases of congenital Chagas disease have been diagnosed in Murcia in the last two years, according to the same sources.
The disease can be transmitted through vectors (only in the endemic areas of the Americas), as well as through blood transfusions, organ transplants, or from an infected mother to her new-born child. At present, there are effective science-based interventions, such as blood and organ screening, which are mandatory all across Spain. If left untreated, Chagas disease may cause heart and digestive disorders and be life-threatening.
The Region of Murcia has one of the highest diagnosis and treatment coverage of Chagas disease in the world; this fact has contributed to the establishment of a strategic partnership among the regional Ministry of Health, through the Tropical Medicine Unit; the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO); the National Centre for Tropical Medicine of the Carlos III Health Institute; and Mundo Sano Foundation, to implement the Plan for the control and elimination of Chagas disease in the Community.
This disease is considered endemic to Latin America, where about 6 to 7 million people are infected, causing some 12,500 deaths annually, according to WHO estimates. It is principally transmitted through the bite of a bug that feeds on the blood of animals and humans, and that occurs only in the Americas, especially in rural areas and with poor hygienic conditions. In Spain, the possible transmission route is from mother to child, since other routes, such as blood and organ donations, are controlled.
Currently, Chagas disease is present in several other countries, which makes it a global health problem. In Spain, about 50,000 people are estimated to be affected by this disease; in the Region of Murcia, about 2,000 people have been diagnosed and treated since the opening of the Tropical Medicine Unit in 2007.