Chagas disease is an infectious disease spread primarily by being bitten by the Triatomine bug, also known as the kissing bug. Blood transfusions are another major cause of infection. The reason Chagas is being referred to as the new AIDS is because experts are noting the similarities to how HIV first spread. The long dormant period after original infection is also a similar feature. It is primarily found in Central and South America. Awareness is crucial, as Chagas has affected almost 8 million people, most of whom are unaware of infection. CDC has targeted Chagas disease as one of five parasitic diseases that need public health action.
Symptoms of Chagas Disease
Chagas disease has two phases, the acute and chronic phases. Some symptoms of Chagas Disease in the acute phase will show up immediately after being bitten, including fever and redness and swelling where the bite occurred. Another marked symptom is that the eyelid on the side of the face that was bitten will swell up. These are the initial Chagas symptoms that will appear after the bite, but following these, the disease becomes dormant and can be unnoticed for 20 years before pulmonary or digestive issues manifest.
Symptoms of Chagas in the second chronic phase can include abdomen pain, difficulty swallowing, constipation, digestion issues, and cardiac problems. Once in the chronic phase of Chagas, 25-30% of people will suffer from stomach, heart or neurological issues, which will eventually be fatal.
Chagas Disease Treatment
If you are uncertain whether you have Chagas Disease, you can take tests such as chest x-ray, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram or a blood culture. These tests help you look for signs like enlarged liver or lymph nodes, weakness in the heart muscle, and irregular or rapid heartbeat. Chagas Disease treatment will often include benznidazole and nifurtimox. Preliminary measures that can be taken to prevent infection are to use insecticide inside the house to control the presence of the kissing bugs. Blood and organ donations can be checked for Chagas. Early detection can also be checked for in congenital cases (mother-to-baby).