The Mazatec community of Oaxaca is facing an outbreak of Chagas disease, the “disease of the poor,” without access to treatment


Oaxaca de Juarez – since 2018, Mazatlan Villa de FloresThe Mazatec community in the Kanyada region of Oaxaca faces an outbreak of a disease that puts dozens of its residents at risk, who do not get adequate treatment to combat it.

Around Chagas diseaseAlso known as “disease of the poor,” as it occurs in rural areas, it is an infectious disease caused by a parasite found in the feces of Finshuca, which is a common bed bug in warm places.

The illness can be mild or long lasting and can cause inflammation and fever. If left untreated, in its severe stage, there are chances of causing heart failure and even sudden death.

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According to the health sector, this disease occurs in regions where the triatomine insects that transmit the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite live, such as South America, Central America and Mexico. In 2009, MSF decided, after discovering cases in various communities, that Oaxaca was a place where this disease was endemic.

The story of how an outbreak of Chagas disease was discovered in this Masatec community is told by Frida Romay, the attorney behind the initiative. Oaxaca is devoid of ChagasHe explained that in 2018, researchers from the University of La Canada conducted tests to identify antibodies to this disease, and as a result, about twenty cases were discovered.

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The infection is caused by the so-called “kissing bug”, which settles in the roofs and walls of homes, and which in Mazatlan Vila de Flores is made of milk, which are ideal areas for insect reproduction. The disease spreads when urine or feces come into contact with skin, water, or food.

Due to the fact that this bed bug is very small, the population does not notice the moment of transmission of this disease, while patients cannot begin treatment until they are diagnosed from the Institute for Diagnostics and Epidemiological References (InDRE).

Also read: Young people from Oaxaca are creating an app to share information in indigenous languages ​​about the epidemic

Only with this diagnosis will people be directed to the health center that corresponds with them, so that they have access to medicines that are only available in the public health sector, as they are not sold in a private way.

The researchers found that children, adults, and the elderly were part of the population affected by the disease and concluded that there were more cases. According to the latest data from Oaxaca Health Services (SSO), in 2019 92 cases were detected in the entity.

They are designing a media strategy


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After the researchers’ findings, the Mazatec community began organizing through Nahndiá Community Radio, led by Melquiades Rosas, who, in coordination with his team, sought support from outside the population.

Thanks to this effort, in October 2020, a team of doctors, environmental experts, radio station members, and a community health advisor was formed, who are designing a multidisciplinary strategy in order to provide medical care and information about Chagas disease.

This is critical, the researchers explained, because the infection can remain asymptomatic for many years.

A late diagnosis can cause symptoms to be confused with those of other conditions, so many people have died without confirming the disease.

In the absence of information, Oaxaca is devoid of Chagas A campaign is being launched in both Spanish and Mazatec so residents know what it is and how to prevent the disease. In addition to a legal strategy to demand, through official letters, that the health authority request the public health laboratory to conduct tests in Mazatlan Vila de Flores.


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Attorney Frida Romay explains that if there is no answer, individual and collective protection is contemplated so that the right to health is guaranteed to the community. Workshops are also planned to manufacture insect repellants that contain lime, so that the vector insect does not settle in homes.

On April 14th, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the name of International Chagas Disease DayThere will be a special program on community radio. “Almost the entire community listens to the radio from 7:00 to 9:00, which is why we consider it an essential tool in the campaign.”

They will also organize a virtual forum with the diagnosed people in order to develop a common strategy to guarantee their right to health, in coordination with the Movimiento Compromiso Universitario por la Salud.

After these activities, Romay says, permanent measures will be implemented among the population in order to prevent, treat and eradicate the disease, in coordination with health promoters from the same community, who will have information in Spanish and Mazatec.

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