Chagas Disease – Biggest Health Threats For Americans?

According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Chagas disease is one of the biggest health threats for Americans. It is estimated that millions of Americans are at risk of suffering from Chagas disease and is responsible for thousands of lives each year.

Chagas disease, also known as American Trypanosomiasis is a chronic disease which is strongly associated with morbidity and mortality that significantly affects the quality of life of an infected individual. Chagas disease is a parasitic disease which is caused by the organism known as Trypanosoma cruzi.

According to research, it is estimated that 16 to 18 million of people are infected by trypanosoma cruzi, almost 30% to 40% of patients develop the symptoms of heart disease as a result of an infection. In America, Chagas disease is one of the leading causes of the development of cardiovascular disease.

Chagas disease is categorized into two stages – acute stage and chronic stage.

  • Acute stage is a stage which occurs shortly after initial infection. This stage can last for few weeks or months after exposure to infection and it is accompanied by normal symptoms that might be left unnoticed such as body ache, headache, fever, rash, and loss of appetite.

The most recognized symptom of acute Chagas disease is known as Romana sign, which is characterized by swelling of the eyelid. The severity of acute Chagas disease ranges from mild to life threatening. It can be severe for people who have a weakened immune system.

  • Chronic stage of Chagas disease is a stage which occurs over many years. It is a serious stage that affects the nervous system, digestive system, and heart. Chronic stage is associated with various serious symptoms such as heart rhythm abnormalities, severe weight loss, and difficulties in swallowing, which leads to malnutrition.

Chagas disease occurs due to the death of the cells in the tissue that occurs during the infective cycle, inducing inflammatory response and fibrosis. When Chagas disease is left untreated, it can become fatal and leads to the occurrence of life-threatening problems such as heart muscle damage.

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Symptoms of Chagas disease

Generally, the symptoms that occur during the first few weeks or months after exposure to infection are mild and show symptoms such as fever, body ache, swelling of the eyelid, swelling at the area of a bite mark. At this stage, many people may not experience any symptoms at all. But some people get sick after some years and experience symptoms that can be serious and life-threatening such as irregular heartbeat, an enlarged heart that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood, problems with the bowel movement, and an increased risk of suffering from a stroke.  

Mode of transmission

Vector transmission is the main mode of transmission of Chagas disease. Chagas disease is a vector-borne disease transmitted primarily by the insect triatomine, which are also known as kissing bugs and reduviid insects. Triatomine insects are infected by Trypanosoma cruzi by feeding on the blood of an infected person. When triatomine insects bite and ingest the blood of an individual, they defecate on a person.

Chagas disease can also be transmitted through the non-vector mechanism and in such cases blood transfusion and congenital transmission is the main cause of the infestation.

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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.