Specialists in neglected infectious diseases (NIDs) recommended governments that they should make efforts to continue delivering the essential services, treatments and distribution of medicines for these pathologies in the COVID-19 pandemic context.
“If diagnosis and treatment are interrupted, there will be an increase of neglected communicable diseases, especially in high transmission areas”, explained Tamara Mancero, Health Surveillance and Disease Prevention and Control consultant at World Health Organization (WHO) during an online conference.
During her participation in “The importance of treating a communicable disease in the context of COVID-19. Chagas disease and pregnancy”, the specialist indicated that, particularly in the case of Chagas disease, “no house spraying is being performed; therefore, vinchucas (kissing bugs) multiply in houses where vector transmission still occurs”.
In this sense, she explained that “in Latin America and the Caribbean, there are still areas considered endemic”, and that “there are different modes of transmission: through vectors –vinchucas-, blood, and consumption of contaminated food, as well as congenital vertical transmission”.
These neglected infectious diseases (NIDs) are “more frequent in poor populations, are caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and our region –Latin America and the Caribbean – has a global burden close to 9 per cent”.
The social isolation people are subjected to “does not apply to vectors, and one of the most harmful facts is that there are families living in houses where vincuchas are still present; in addition, –as a consequence of the different limitations imposed by the governments to mitigate the spread of coronavirus– prevention programmes, treatments, field research, and distribution of medicines have been interrupted”.
For this reason, it is “fundamental” that “efforts be made to avoid interruption of programmes for the treatment of NIDs”, the specialist stated, and that “just as the new normal involves all of us, national plans will also need a revision of their goals, of the status of supply chains” she added.
Likewise, Mancero described that, besides vectorial transmission, “for some years now vertical transmission has been addressed, we are working on prevention of mother-to-child vertical transmission”.
In this sense, she referred to the ETMI Plus programme and explained that it has been implemented in Argentina since July 2019 to work in collaboration from the primary care level, with prevention actions, to the secondary level of specialized attention.
This initiative seeks to achieve and maintain the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection, syphilis, hepatitis B virus (HBV) perinatal infection and Chagas disease.
“This allows us to make an integrated approach of four diseases that can be eliminated if intensive work is done”, Mancero stated.
Silvia Gold, biochemist from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and founder of Mundo Sano Foundation, the organization that promoted the meeting, ascertained that “these diseases should be borne in mind by the family doctor, at the primary care level; when a person comes to the consultation, it is the doctor who seeks them, treats them or prevents them”.
“Communicable diseases have been losing ground on the global agendas in the last years due to the occurrence of chronic diseases, aging-related diseases, and to the idea that they had already been overcome, which is not true”, the specialist stressed.
Coronavirus “has transformed the world in a few months; it has led to an unprecedented lockdown, with an impact on education, social aspects, health. Because of coronavirus, diseases have been neglected, people avoid going to an emergency room or decline oncological treatment for fear”, Gold explained.
“If it was difficult to remove these diseases from the place of silence before, in the context of COVID-19 it is much more difficult”, she said, and stressed the importance of working “on field research to generate evidence that contributes to health public policies and to making these diseases visible”.
TÉLAM NEWS AGENCTY – Full article