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[LIMA] Fifty six per cent of school children in La Tinguiña, in the Peruvian province of Ica, have never heard of Chagas disease, even though they live in a zone where the disease is endemic, according to a new study.

Less than 1 per cent of those surveyed knew that the Chagas vector was Triatoma infestans, an insect locally known as vinchuca or chirimacha, let alone other means of contracting the infection, according to the study published in the latest edition of Cadernos de Saúde Pública.

Chagas disease is one of the most widespread parasite infections in Latin America, affecting approximately 11 million individuals in the region.

The survey revealed that young people are interested in collaborating in activities to monitor and control the disease. "In countries such as Brazil and Chile, which have managed to halt vectorial transmission, school children have played an important role in entomological surveillance in their communities," says one of the researchers, Rufino Cabrera of the National University San Luis Gonzaga de Ica (ÚNICA). "This experience could be applied to Peru through the implementation of a similar system."

As regards measures for prevention and control, 35 per cent of those surveyed thought that vector infestation could be controlled through the use of insecticides. The study also showed that other methods of prevention are required to control the vector, in addition to the use of insecticides.

"People must have a working knowledge of aspects of general health in order to care for themselves and their families, as well as being able to participate in preventive measures and community surveillance," says Cabrera.

The survey was conducted from December 2000 to January 2001 among 241 primary school children.

Link to full text of study

Related external link:

The impact of Chagas disease control in Latin America: a review.