Chagas disease also called as kissing bug disease is caused by protozoa named Trypanosoma cruzi. This disease will cause inflammation on the skin which would lead to infection on other vital organs like heart and intestine. The parasite would enter humans through bugs which act as carrier of parasites. The symptoms of chagas disease can be mild or severe depending on the phase of the disease. It can be controlled by antiparasitic medications completely. This disease is common in Central America and South America where there is abundance of triatomine bugs.
The symptoms of chagas disease vary from mild to severe. It exists in two phase namely acute and chronic phase.
Acute Phase :
Often there are very less symptoms in this phase. Even there are any signs it would be minimal to get noticed. Some of the symptoms in the acute phase are mild fever, fatigue, body pain, headache, swelling of skin, loss of appetite and nausea/vomiting. Most of the symptoms would resolve by itself within a week.
Chronic Phase :
There is a chance for a person bitten with carrier bug to have severe symptoms even after 10-20 years of infection. Some of the chronic phase symptoms are enlargement of heart, inflammation of tissues, irregular heartbeat, enlargement of lymph nodes, and difficulty in swallowing, abdominal pain and sudden cardiac arrest. You need to see your doctor immediately if you have some of the above symptoms or if you have traveled recently to Chagas disease prone areas.
Chagas disease is caused by protozoa (Trypanosoma cruzi) which spread through kissing bugs of Triatominae group. When the bug bites a person the parasite can easily enter into his bloodstream through the small break on his skin. There is a chance for the parasite to enter the host’s body through inhalation or ingestion also. These bugs would leave their feces near your lips or eyes through which the parasites find its entry into your body.
Triatomine bugs are largely found in thatch or mud or huts of Mexico and in South American region. Whenever the bug bites it leaves some parasites on your skin which would enter into your body when you scratch/rub the area. Chagas disease is also caused by eating contaminated food that contains fecal particles of T. cruzi bugs.
Risk Factors :
People living in the rural regions of Mexico, South America and Central America are prone to develop Chagas disease. Individuals who live in huts or thatched roofs that contains t. bugs and those who receive infected blood by blood transfusion have also risk of developing this illness.
If left untreated even after the chronic phase symptoms the disease can cause severe complications like heart failure, cardiac arrest, enlargement of colon or esophagus causing intense pain in the abdomen or difficulty in swallowing.
Your doctor will do a physical exam and collect information of your symptoms. He may order of blood tests (for checking the presence of T. cruzi) and also verify the count of antibodies present to fight against the new parasite. Additional diagnoses are also done to rule out whether the patient has entered the chronic phase of the disease. Your doctor may conduct ECG to check the heart’s function, endoscopy to test the functional capacity of esophagus and imaging tests of abdomen and intestine.
The primary focus of treatment is to destroy or kill the parasites inside the body. When a person has acute symptoms he will be given antiparasitic drugs to control the growth of parasites. Medications like benznidazole or nifultimox are prescribed for Chagas disease. In case of chronic phase or if the patient has complications then the mode of treatment depends on the intensity of symptoms.
If an individual is having irregular heartbeat or difficulty in breathing he would be fitted with pacemaker or similar device. Sometimes heart transplantation is to be done. For an individual with severe digestive complications, powerful medications like corticosteroids are prescribed. According to the Center for Disease Control and prevention, everyone who is infected with Chagas (irrespective of acute or chronic phase) should take medicine. Taking the medications early can prevent you from developing any complication. Most of the affected people would recover from illness if treated promptly. In rare cases Chagas disease can be fatal.
No vaccination is available to prevent Chagas disease. You can avoid traveling in bugs prone regions of Mexico or South America. Avoid sleeping in thatched hours or mud where there are plenty of t. bugs. You can use insecticide while you are sleeping in thatched/mud houses.