The Chagas disease is something that for some reason not many people have heard of and yet so many are affected by. Here in the US, we have the seventh-highest prevalence of infections of this disease and awareness in regards needs to be spread.
Chagas disease is a parasitic infection that is caused by the protozoan parasite T cruzi or Trypanosoma Cruzi. This infection can be obtained in a number of ways be it contaminated blood products, organ transplants, or something known as the vector-borne route. According to Clinical Advisor, the vector-borne route is one that only occurs here in the Americas and is something we in the US need to look out for.
The vector for T cruzi is a bug known as the triatomine bug or more commonly the kissing bug. You can become infected through contact with the feces of this bug, and they have been found in southern states as well as Mexico. We have been seeing cases of Chagas since the 1950s here in the US and those cases are growing. Right now there are at least 300,000 people infected with the parasite and at least 30,000 of those will end up with the disease/heart issue itself.
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Chagas disease can cause a sudden, brief illness (acute), or it may be a long-lasting (chronic) condition. Symptoms range from mild to severe, although many people don’t experience symptoms until the chronic stage.
The acute phase of Chagas disease, which lasts for weeks or months, is often symptom-free. When signs and symptoms do occur, they are usually mild and may include:
Swelling at the infection site
Loss of appetite
Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
Enlargement of your liver or spleen
Signs and symptoms that develop during the acute phase usually go away on their own. If left untreated, the infection persists and, in some cases, advances to the chronic phase.
Signs and symptoms of the chronic phase of Chagas disease may occur 10 to 20 years after initial infection, or they may never occur. In severe cases, however, Chagas disease signs and symptoms may include:
Congestive heart failure
Sudden cardiac arrest
Difficulty swallowing due to enlarged esophagus
Abdominal pain or constipation due to enlarged colon
These bugs are especially dangerous as they can live for years in colder regions and thrive in southern continents. For more information on kissing bugs and other things of the sort please feel free to check out the video below. If Chagas progresses to the chronic phase it can cause serious heart issues and in many cases failure.