(NEW YORK) – A rare parasitic disease that can lead to heart failure or stroke is more common in the United States than many medical providers with an estimated 300,000 affected individuals
insect known as the Kissing Bug. An estimated 8 million people in Central and South America are infected, but the disease has also been reported in several American states – Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona and Massachusetts.
Most infected people will not develop signs or symptoms, but about 30 percent of those with the parasite may become chronically ill. In a new report, the American Heart Association urges physicians in the US to be aware that their patients may be carrying this potentially dangerous infection.
What you need to know about the disease
What is? Chagas Disease
Chagas Disease is an infectious disease caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. The parasite spreads via the triatomin beetle, an insect that carries the parasite in its droppings, on humans and animals. It is also known as the kiss-bug, because it tends to bite people around the mouth or eyes, usually at night. Parasites then come in through the bite, rub or scratch.
The disease is most common in Central and South America, but it has also been diagnosed in people in the US, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland United Kingdom, Australia and Japan
In the US, the disease was mainly in Southern States, but also reported in Massachusetts. Most people in the United States who suffered from the disease were probably infected before arriving in the country, according to the American Heart Association.
The parasite can hide in the body for decades.
How is Chagas disease spreading?
Most cases of Chagas occur after an insect bite. It may also be transmitted to a baby by a pregnant woman and through blood transfusions, organ transplants, consumption of raw foods contaminated with the faeces of infected beetles or accidental laboratory exposure.
Chagas does not spread from person to person through normal contact with humans or animals.
Experts also say that it is safe for a mother to have Chagas' disease to breastfeed, as long as she has no blood in breast milk or torn nipples.
What? are the signs, symptoms and long-term health effects of Chagas disease?
First symptoms may be fever, fatigue, body aches, headaches and rash. There may also be local swelling where the bite has passed and the parasite has invaded the body. These symptoms usually disappear in days to weeks. Rarely, small children may develop severe inflammation of the heart muscle or brain in the initial stages.
The chronic phase of the disease can occur in about 30 percent of infected individuals and cardiac complications, including cardiac arrhythmias, heart muscle disorders, include stroke, cardiac arrest, or even sudden death.
About 70 percent of people do not develop any signs or symptoms, and therefore the recent warning that doctors should prepare for the disease.
"Chagas disease causes early mortality and significant disability, which often occurs in the most productive population, young adults, leading to significant economic loss," said Maria Carmo Pereira Nunes, the doctor and co-chair of the committee, which produces the American Heart Association's statement in a written commentary
What is the treatment?
Chagas disease is treated with an anti-trypanosomal medication (nifurtimox or benzidazole), which i
Who is at risk and how can risks be minimized?
Experts believe that most of about 300,000 people with Chagas disease in the US had the infection prior to their arrival
For people living or traveling in severely affected countries, the World Health Organization recommends unpasteurized cane juice or to avoid acai fruit juice that may be contaminated with parasitic insect excrement and shunts houses with exposed mud walls or thatched roofs.
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