Until further research is done, Sarkar and his colleagues won't be able to say for sure how widespread the disease is. They believe the risks are high enough, however, to recommend a few low-cost, low-impact changes to the way the Texas public health system deals with Chagas.
They say Chagas should be designated as a reportable disease, which would require health professionals to report incidences of it to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Efforts should be launched in South Texas to more thoroughly determine the prevalence of Chagas in humans, dogs and wild species (particularly rats) that often act as reservoirs of the disease. And there should be mandatory screening of blood donations for the presence of Chagas. Currently, screening is voluntary and only done with about 65 percent of samples.
In the future, Sarkar would like to see Mexico and the U.S. collaborate on a multi-layered attack on the disease. He points to the success of the Southern Cone Initiative in South America as a model. Simple changes in lifestyle, such as keeping piles of wood away from the home and encouraging people to switch from adobe or wooden houses to concrete, have been effective. Selective spraying for the insects has also been key to decreasing the burden of the disease in South America.
|Contact: Daniel Oppenheimer|
University of Texas at Austin