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Chagas Disease: Know causes, symptoms and all about infection caused by 'Kissing Bugs'

Chagas disease occurs due to the bite of a Chagas triatomine insect. Often this insect bites a person's face, hence it is also called Kissing Bug. Know its symptoms and methods of prevention?

Written By : Health Desk Edited By : Kristina Das
New Delhi
Published on: April 16, 2024 16:30 IST
Chagas Disease
Image Source : FILE IMAGE Know the causes, symptoms and more about Chagas disease.

The rapidly spreading Chagas disease is causing the death of thousands of people every year around the world. Chagas disease is a disease that is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. It is named after Carlos Chagas, a Brazilian doctor who first identified the disease in 1909. Chagas disease can occur when a person becomes infected with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. This insect is also called Triatomine or Kissing Bug which transmits the parasite to the human body. According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, 12 thousand people die every year from Chagas.

What causes Chagas disease?

These insects, which cause Chagas disease, are commonly found in poverty-stricken areas in rural Latin America. According to experts, at least 11 million people in South and Central America and Mexico have this disease. However, most of these people do not know that its treatment exists. This deadly disease called Chagas cannot be cured without medicine. This disease has spread from America to many countries around the world.

The World Health Organization has called Chagas a silent disease. Because most of the people infected with this disease do not show any symptoms. Some people experience very mild symptoms. WHO has said that around 6-7 million people are getting infected every year due to Chagas disease worldwide and 12,000 people are dying every year. That's why WHO spreads awareness among people about Chagas disease every year on 14 April.

How does the Chagas disease get spread?

These insects usually live in the cracks and crevices of walls and ceilings of houses and surrounding areas, chicken coops and warehouses in rural areas. The parasite Trypanosoma cruzi hides during the day and at night drinks the blood of humans and animals and then defecates or urinates at the same place. If you touch your face after an insect bite and then touch your nose, eyes, mouth or any injured open area, infection can occur. Trypanosoma cruzi also infects animals. 

Some of the symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches 
  • Headaches
  • Enlarged glands
  • Rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling on the corner of the eyes or face

Stages of Chagas Disease

  1. There are two stages that the sickness goes through acute and chronic. In the initial phase, there are few or no symptoms, making diagnosis challenging.
  2. Years or even decades after the initial infection can pass before the chronic stage shows symptoms. According to Johns Hopkins, the parasite enters the patient's cardiac muscle during the chronic phase.
  3. After that, it may result in an irregular heartbeat and make it difficult to eat or pass faeces.

Chagas disease treatment

Chagas disease can be treated with benznidazole or nifurtimox. Both these medicines kill the parasites. If these medicines are given in the beginning, they work effectively. However, the longer the infection lasts or with increasing age, the effect of these medicines does not remain the same. These medicines should not be given to pregnant women or people with kidney or liver failure. To avoid this disease, maintain cleanliness in and around the house. Spray insecticides from time to time. Use mosquito net while sleeping at night. Get tested before taking any kind of blood. 

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