Health officials in Pará state in northern Brazil are concerned about the number of Chagas disease cases seen this year as two fatalities were reported recently in the city of Barcarena, according to G1 report (computer translated).

Kissing bug next to penny Image/Rachel Curtis-Hamer Labs
Kissing bug next to penny
Image/Rachel Curtis-Hamer Labs

Between January and September 2016, 127 cases of the disease were registered in Pará.

The State Department of Public Health attributes much of the Chagas to the consumption of açaí contaminated by the vector of the parasite, the kissing bug.

“We routinely have training for açaí batsmen, routine sanitary surveillance inspections on batsmen, regardless of whether it is in the harvest period or not. We have even worked on the issue of banning points of sale that are not using the proper technique of preparing this food, “explains Eugênia Teles, Secretary of Health of Barcarena.

Barcarena is the seventh municipality in the state with more cases of Chagas’ disease in 2016. The municipalities with the most cases were Breves (45 cases), Igarapé-Miri (14 cases), Abaetetuba cases (12 cases) and Belém cases (9 cases).

According to the World Health Organization(WHO), Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi). It is found mainly in endemic areas of 21 Latin American countries.

About 7 million to 8 million people worldwide are estimated to be infected with the parasite.

T. cruzi parasites are mainly transmitted by the infected feces of blood-sucking triatomine bugs, or kissing bugs. In addition, the parasite can be transmitted via food contaminated with T. cruzi through for example the contact with triatomine bug feces, blood transfusions using blood from infected donors, passage from an infected mother to her newborn during pregnancy or childbirth, organ transplants using organs from infected donors and laboratory accidents.