Dr. Paula Stigler Granados, assistant professor management, policy and community health at the UT School of Public Health – San Antonio Regional Campus, is the lead investigator on a five-year, $544,329 study from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct outreach and education on Chagas Disease. The focus of her work will be to develop a strong working partnership via a Chagas Task Force, consisting of experts in the field of Chagas disease and community health to develop region specific educational materials and implement targeted outreach and education on the topic of Chagas disease. The work will target health care providers (with a special emphasis on clinicians working with immigrant populations), blood donation centers, veterinarians (in both rural and urban areas), and licensed pesticide applicators. In addition, she intends to work with community groups and military facilities in high risk areas, with a priority emphasis around the San Antonio metroplex, where a high density of infected kissing bugs and infected wild and domestic animals occur in close proximity to a dense urban human population. The overall goal of the project is to increase awareness of the presence of Chagas disease in South Texas, improve knowledge regarding appropriate diagnosis and treatment, and encourage communication between HCPs/veterinarians/blood banks/pesticide applicators and the community at large regarding prevention of Chagas disease.
Chagas disease is a vector borne parasitic disease that affects more than eight million people globally. Although the disease is mostly prevalent in Latin America, it also exists in the southern portion of the United States, including South Texas. The disease is caused by a vector-borne parasite Trypanosoma cruzi that is carried by a type of bug known as a triatomine or kissing bug.
Most human infections come from contact with the feces of the infected bug, usually after the bug has bitten the person, although congenital and blood-borne transmission can occur. Chagas disease may take several years to present symptoms, which is characterized primarily by heart disease. Approximately 12,000 deaths are attributed to Chagas disease annually. However, these numbers are only approximations since many cases of Chagas may go undiagnosed, especially in the United States were little is known about the disease.