Addressing the Challenges of Chagas Disease: An Emerging Health Concern in the United States

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Chagas disease is an emerging health concern in the United States. US health care providers have an unparalleled opportunity to respond to the challenges this infection poses and to provide state-of-the-art care for patients with Chagas disease. Most of the approximately 300,000 persons with Trypanosoma cruzi infection living in the United States have chronic, asymptomatic infection acquired in endemic regions in Latin America. Congenital infection is often asymptomatic and, even when symptomatic, has no features that distinguish it from other congenitally transmitted infections. Health care providers and the public have limited awareness of this infection. Recognizing risk groups and performing targeted diagnostic testing for at-risk infants, children, and adults are a health priority because early treatment can effect cure and avert the life-threatening cardiac manifestations of Chagas disease. Two medications for treatment, benznidazole and nifurtimox, are available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although challenges exist, informed health care providers can greatly reduce the effects of Chagas disease in the United States.

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