Global 02/11/13 nytimes.com: by Donald G. McNeil Jr. – Chagas disease may be obscure, but the economic burden it imposes on the world is greater than that of better-known diseases, like cervical cancer or cholera, according to a new study. Even in the United States, the authors said, the costs of Chagas are commensurate with those of more publicized diseases, like Lyme disease. (In the same league, perhaps, but not quite equal. In their study, published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, the authors calculated that Chagas cost the American economy $900 million a year. A 1998 study estimated that Lyme disease cost $2.5 billion.)
Chagas disease is caused by a trypanosome parasite transmitted by the bloodsucking “kissing bug,” which bites victims as they sleep. Transmission is endemic in much of Latin America, from central Mexico to northern Argentina. Kissing bugs have been found in the southern United States; the bugs tend to live in substandard housing and animal pens. The parasites cause an initial flulike illness that can be cured if it is caught. But it is often not diagnosed, and the infection may become chronic. It may be silent for decades and then emerge as long-term damage to the heart or intestines. It can be fatal. Up to 10 million people may be infected, many of whom have emigrated from Latin America seeking jobs in the United States, Canada and Europe — especially Spain.
The authors, from the University of Pittsburgh and Baylor University, estimated the economic burden by trying to calculate the cost of hospitalization and care, including pacemaker implants, for those with heart damage or other organ failure. The costs vary by country, of course, with the United States being the most expensive. The researchers then added estimates of “disability-adjusted life years,” a measure of how many years of healthy life are lost. They “cost” more when they are subtracted from the life of a working-age adult in a high-wage country than from a retiree or an infant in a poor country. The authors estimate that the global burden of Chagas is about $7 billion a year. By comparison, the burden of cervical cancer — a notorious killer of women, but almost only in poor countries, and usually as they age out of their working lives — is estimated at below $5 billion.
The burden of rotavirus, a diarrheal disease that kills many babies but rarely endangers anyone over age 5, is estimated at $2 billion. (By contrast, lung cancer’s burden is estimated at $83 billion a year, and breast cancer’s at $35 billion.) Many millions have been spent developing a rotavirus vaccine and on ways to fight cervical cancer in poor countries. Knowing that Chagas is a serious economic threat could push policy makers to spend more money on developing vaccines against it, said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and a co-author of the new study. Dr. Hotez is also president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, which is doing research on Chagas vaccines. – For links to health guide and other relative topics see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/health/chagas-disease-costs-us-more-than-better-known-illnesses.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y&_r=0
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE):
Florida 02/07/13 Levy County: Health officials have confirmed that a 90-year-old male residing near Bronson died late last month of EEE. This is the first human case of EEE ever reported in the county, they said. – See http://www.chieflandcitizen.com/content/levy-man-dies-eastern-equine-encephalitis
Florida 02/13/13 Duval County: Health officials have issued a Rabies Alert for the Ortega area of Jacksonville because of a rabid bat. – See http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-02-13/story/rabid-bat-leads-rabies-alert-ortega-area
North Carolina 02/12/13 Alamance County: Two raccoons recently involved in separate alterations with two different dogs have tested positive for rabies. On Friday, a raccoon and dog fought on Troendly Street in the northwest part of the county, and a different raccoon attacked another dog Monday on Bethel Methodist Church Road. Both dogs had to be euthanized. – See http://www.thetimesnews.com/news/top-news/county-confirms-second-third-rabies-cases-of-2013-1.94331