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Chagas disease is transmitted by the so-called Kissing Bug (triatomine bug) a blood sucking insect that releases a parasite into the bloodstream. It’s being called the new AIDS , according to an editorial published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, because it has begun to resemble the earlier spread of HIV and there are currently 300,000 cases of Chagas disease in the United States and growing.
The disease, believed to originate in Latin America, sees the majority of cases reported in Bolivia, Mexico, Columbia and Central America. The Chagas Foundation has reported that 20,000,000 people have been affected in these areas.
The triatomine bug tends to bite a person on the face in most cases. Unfortunately Chagas disease can sometimes go undetected for months because of the lack of symptoms. In the earlier stages of Chagas disease a person can experience symptoms such as a rash, swelling at the infection site, nausea and diarrhea. In more severe and chronic stages, Chagas disease can cause sudden cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure and enlarged organs that can eventually burst.
Chagas disease can be hard to impossible to cure. Although the disease can be cured in the beginning stages, it is not usually detected until chronic symptoms begin to show. Another problem that lies in the prevention and cure of Chagas disease is it’s prominence in low income environments. A major problem is that people in low income environments usually do not have the resources or money to get Chagas disease detected in it’s early stages. If caught in its early stages Chagas disease can be cured with a long term very expensive treatment plan that most people with the disease cannot afford. The demand for these medications also outweighs the supply along with a lack of proper research because Chagas is a disease of the poor. Perhaps now that the disease has begun to affect large numbers of people in North America it will be taken more seriously.
GLOBAL UPDATE; Spread of Chagas Is Called ‘The New AIDS of the Americas, The New York Times, 31 May 2012.
Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Definition.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 June 2011. Web. 31 May 2012.
Chagas Disease: A New Global Pandemic?, Fox News, 31 May 2012