Brazil is the first Latin American country to eliminate transmission of Chagas’ disease by the barber bug (Triatoma infestans, also referred to as the "kissing bug" or "assassin bug").
This recognition comes from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), which on Friday, June 9, presented the Brazilian Minister of Health, Agenor ílvares, with the International Elimination of Transmission of Chagas’ Disease Certificate.
Before granting the certificate, an international commission composed of specialists on health in the Americas began visiting every Brazilian state in 2000 to verify the presence of barber bugs in residences.
In 2005 slightly more than 200 of the insects were discovered in the approximately 1.9 million residences visited, and none of the insects presented a risk of transmitting the disease. Around 25 years ago the same survey discovered 250,000 barber bugs in a residential sample of the same size.
According to the PAHO, Bahia was the last Brazilian state in which Chagas’ disease was transmitted by the barber bug. "The World Health Organization and the sanitary authorities of the Americas celebrate the victory for Brazil, America, and the world. This is a contribution made by Brazil to America and the world," comments the PAHO representative in Brazil, Horácio Toro.
Another proof that transmission by the barber bug has ended were the results of blood tests performed on children between the ages of 0 and 5 to detect the disease – only eight cases were confirmed among the 90 thousand samples collected.
According to the secretary of Health Surveillance, Jarbas Barbosa, the challenge now is to maintain constant vigilance. "Despite the elimination of the Triatoma infestans, there are other vectors that are wild and not eradicable.
So there will always be a risk. But Chagas’ disease in Brazil will now become an occasional, accidental disease, with a very small number of cases," he affirms.