Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/14/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Unknown trigger causing kidney failure and death in tens of thousands across region, one-in four may be afflicted.

A silent, mysterious killer that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives in the past decade is stalking the manual laborers of Central America. At least one in four Central American men are already silently afflicted.  As the death toll mounts, local and international authorities are scrambling to identify the culprit, and to halt its spread.

The deceased body of Jesus Flores, 51, lies in bed before his mother. Flores died of CKD on January 19th and is one of thousands across the region who will meet the same fate this year alone.

The deceased body of Jesus Flores, 51, lies in bed before his mother. Flores died of CKD on January 19th and is one of thousands across the region who will meet the same fate this year alone.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

2/14/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Chronic Kidney Disease, CKD, Central America, Latin America, workers, worker's rights, social teaching, mystery illness, death, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama

CHICHIGALPA, NICARAGUA (Catholic Online) - As reported by the AP, since 2000, at least 24,000 workers across Central America have died from the onset of kidney failure, many victims between the ages of 30 and 50. The prime commonality appears to be that the sick and dying men are manual laborers, particularly those working in construction, agriculture, and mining. The disease also affects women, but in much lower numbers.

It is believed that one-in-four men across the region has signs of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). The Pan American Health Organization has also reported that incidence of the disease is also rising rapidly, doubling in the past decade alone. 

However, no specific cause has been identified. All that's understood is that the men develop kidney failure and suffer painful deaths. Adding to the mystery is the regional nature of the disease. Such rates of CKD are seen nowhere else in the world, except Central America. 

In an effort to understand what's happening, the Costa Rican government has launched a full investigation into the widespread prevalence of CKD across the region. The government and health ministries of other Latin American countries are intently following the study.

The disease seems most concentrated in El Salvador and Nicaragua but has been documented as far north as southern Mexico and as far south as Panama. Local health officials have declared the disease an epidemic and have blamed it for overwhelming local health systems. 

Since few of the workers have access to regular medical care, they often do not know their kidneys are on the verge of failure until toxins build up in their body to the point they cause suffering. At that point, death is inevitable, but can be delayed with dialysis. Very few have access to such care, and those that do may spend years administering dialysis treatment to themselves several times a day until they finally die. 

Many workers are quick to blame pesticides for the epidemic. This is a reasonable assumption, since workers are not afforded the protections that are standard in many other parts of the world. However, because the disease also afflicts construction workers and miners, and is observed across a wide area, researchers believe the cause is more complex. 

The most likely cause appears to be chronic dehydration. Latin American workers toil for very long periods in exceptionally hot conditions. Protection from the sun, as well as an adequate supply of drinking water is a rarity. With workers exposed to these conditions, some from the age of 10 onwards, the near-daily stress on the kidneys causes rapid development of disease and ultimately failure sometime during their middle-aged years. 

Yet even the dehydration hypothesis is just that - an educated guess. Other theories include overuse of pain medication and consumption of locally produced alcohol. 

Still, a few - and only a few, aren't taking any chances. At least one sugar plantation, the Ingenio El Viejo, has already started supplying workers with a hydrating solution that it now requires them to drink throughout the day. The company has also started working with doctors to develop plans to prevent CKD onset in workers.

For now, workers across all of Central America continue to eke out their living toiling in the heat of the sun and risking their lives as they work without many of the protections others across the globe take for granted. All the while, a silent killer stalks them, leaving each to wonder not if -- but when the first signs of illness will appear and claim their lives in agony.



Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'

© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.


More Americas

Massive earthquake shake Mexico: Was it foretold by oarfish? Watch

Image of The earthquake, which sent terrified residents running into the streets, has authorities looking for damage and injuries.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

One of the strongest earthquakes over the past several years has rumbled through Mexico. According to the Mexican Seismological Institute, the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7. As reported here on Catholic Online, the temblor may have been foretold by the ... continue reading

Colombia: Largest South American drug bust in nine years Watch

Image of The drugs were discovered by the local authorities as the ship was about to disembark the port on the northern Caribbean coast for the Netherlands, camouflaged among pineapple pulp.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It was by far the largest drug bust in all of South America in almost nine years: Colombian police intercepted SEVEN TONS of cocaine headed to the Dutch port of Rotterdam. The drugs had a street value of at least $250 million. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) ... continue reading

Vigilance saves lives: Building codes prevented destruction in Chilean quake Watch

Image of While there was major structural damage in the quakes, it's seen as a minor trade-off where many lives were spared.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Miracles do happen. Only six perished in a massive earthquake in northern Chile following an immense 8.2 earthquake and tsunami. Four of the deaths were attributed to heart attacks and only two were crushed by debris. The reason for this amazingly low fatality ... continue reading

Tsunami batters Chilean coast after MASSIVE 8.2 earthquake Watch

Image of Chileans calmly evacuated coastal areas on foot, with policemen helping bundled-up elderly people and some residents loading up vehicles with their belongings.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A massive 8.2 earthquake has triggered a tsunami off of Chile's northern coast. Waves as high as six feet have battered the coastline. At least five people have been reported dead due to the occurrence. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The deceased, officials ... continue reading

HOUSES OF HORROR: Colombian drug gangs dismember witnesses alive in 'chop houses' Watch

Image of Thousands of Buenaventura's residents have been forced to flee as a result. Some 50,687 people have been forcibly displaced in the past three years, according to official figures.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The screams of people being dismembered alive with chainsaws echo throughout the Colombian port city of Buenaventura. People who live here say they hear the cries late at night, as the local drug gangs exact their vengeance against those who dare to cross them. ... continue reading

Report: Colombian children forced into prostitution during armed conflict Watch

Image of Colombian children caught between uprisings are often forced into situations where they are sexually exploited.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The South American nation of Colombia has been mired in fighting between state security forces, leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary militias for almost 50 years. Along with drug-running, these armed gangs are responsible for sexual violence against ... continue reading

Violence against women in Mexico surges out of control, but who is to blame? Watch

Image of Women in Mexico protest the violence, but without meaningful changes in attitudes and from the government, nothing is likely to improve.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Mexico is a dangerous place to be female. Girls and women alike face astounding rates of violence which includes rape and murder. The horrifying conditions are related to Mexico's failed war on drugs and the breakdown of law and order in many areas, as well as ... continue reading

Denouncing the nation of Panama as a 'lackey,' Venezuela severs diplomatic ties Watch

Image of In yet another dramatic move on the part of the South American nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has severed diplomatic ties with Panama.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In yet another dramatic move on the part of the South American nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has severed diplomatic ties with Panama. Denouncing the country as being a "lackey" of the United States, Maduro accused Panama of being aligned with ... continue reading

Coin found by treasure hunter confirms long disputed historical fact Watch

Image of Sir Francis Drake reportedly covered his discovery of Canada at the behest of Queen Elizabeth I, who supposedly wished to avoid confrontation over the new territory with Spain.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A 16th century shilling, buried in clay on the shores of Vancouver Island has changed the course of Canadian history. An amateur treasure hunter with a hand-held metal detector discovered the 435-year-old coin and has given credence that British hero, Sir ... continue reading

Starbucks watch out! Crops, jobs and wages in Central America tumble due to coffee bean disease Watch

Image of Roya attacks the leaves of coffee plants with rust-colored spore dust.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Central American economy is struggling with the outbreak of coffee rust, also known as roya. The disease is crippling coffee crops in the area, leading to a downturn in jobs and income for countries reliant on this agricultural crop. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

All Americas News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 1:1--2:2
1 In the beginning God created heaven and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11
5 My birthright, my cup is Yahweh; you, you alone, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 28:1-10
1 After the Sabbath, and towards dawn on the first ... Read More

Reading 2, Genesis 22:1-18
1 It happened some time later that God put Abraham to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 19th, 2014 Image

St. Alphege
April 19: Archbishop and "the First Martyr of Canterbury." He was born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook

Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter