Have you heard of Chagas disease? It is widespread in Latin America. It is caused by a parasite that is transmitted to humans through contact with parasite called triatomine bugs (Trypanosoma cruzi). Here are some facts.
Chagas disease: what is it?
Chagas disease (named after Carlos Ribeiro Chagas, the Brazilian physician who discovered the disease in 1909) is also known as American trypanosomiasis, a disease that can be fatal and is caused by a protozoan called Trypanosoma cruzi. Once it enters the body, the parasite can cause heart problems that can lead to death. Very present in Latin America, it is transmitted to humans through the faces of the triatomine bug, a variety of carrier of the parasite bug killer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people affected by this disease is estimated at between 6 and 7 million.
What are the symptoms of Chagas disease?
Symptoms begin to appear about two months after infection with this parasite.
- Unexplained fever
- Swollen lymph glands
- Intense and unexplained muscle pain (without accomplishing sporting effort)
- Difficulty in breathing
All the symptoms of Chagas disease can amount to flu-like symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose the disease early. When symptoms begin to develop, the affected person may have lesions on the skin (blue) or purplish and swollen eyelids.
Chagas disease occurs in two stages. During the first phase, some symptoms occur, in contrast to the second phase where people can confuse these signs with the flu.
In the second phase, the parasites (triatomine) lurk in the heart muscles and digestive muscles: 10% of infected people have found digestive problems while 30% of people have had heart problems during this phase.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against this disease but it is highly treatable when detected early enough (100% effective treatment).
To increase the prevention and better protection of Chagas’ disease ], WHO recommends use of insecticides to spray your home, especially near places where food is stored, and be sure to keep good personal hygiene, especially if you are traveling in countries at risk.
How Chagas is it transmitted to humans?
Most people affected by this disease have been infected as a result of micro-injuries caused at the barber. The parasite will defecate on the wound and fecal matter that will infect the micro-injury with the deadly parasite, which then will spread throughout the body when the person will scratch the skin. The parasite will then live in the intestine and feed on human blood. Infected pregnant women may even transmit the disease to the fetus, hence the importance of being vigilant.