PIP: Some 90 million people in Latin America are exposed to the risk of infection with Chagas disease, a parasitic disease caused by Trypanosoma cruzi. In the southern part of South America, over 54 million people are at risk, representing 31% of the population. The risk is particularly high in countries such as Paraguay, where 43% of the population is exposed, and Bolivia, where the proportion is 35%. Chagas disease mainly affects children under 10 years of age. Illness begins with an acute phase followed by a chronic phase that may last for years and irreversibly affect the heart, esophagus, colon, and peripheral nervous system. Uruguay is the first Member State of the Southern Cone Countries Initiative, which the Ministries of Health of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay established for the elimination of T. cruzi parasite by the year 2000. This program was launched in Brasilia in June 1991. In Uruguay seroepidemiological surveys at the end of 1992 showed extremely low infection rates, or even zero incidence in a number of endemic rural areas, although a World Health Organization (WHO) study in 1985 had shown that 3.4% of Uruguay's population was infected with the parasite. Chagas disease is transmitted by a bloodsucking insect that infests poorly constructed rural dwellings. Vector control measures include fumigant canisters and insecticidal paints, improved housing and strengthened health education. The disease is also spread through the transfusion of infected blood. Screening of blood banks for the parasite is now compulsory in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Argentina has launched a program to control rural transmission by the use of fumigant canisters and sensor boxes for biting insects. Both these tools were developed with the support of the WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. By the end of this campaign 380,000 rural dwellings will have been treated in the endemic 16 provinces of Argentina.