Chagas disease is an infection with a parasitic protozoa called Trypanosoma cruzi. An insect that carries the protozoa in called a triatomine bug, commonly found in our area.
The triatomine bug is nocturnal and comes out at night to feast on the blood out of their sleeping victims, which includes humans and animals both. The bug typically feeds around the eyes or mouth (hence the name, the “kissing bug”). At the time of feeding, the bug defecates on the skin, releasing the parasite in its feces. The feces enters the skin through the bite or through mucous membranes.
Chagas can be life-threatening if left untreated, but treatment for Chagas is most effective in the early stages of the disease. Symptoms include fever and swelling where the bite took place. If left untreated, the infection can lead to complications with the heart, esophagus, and colon. Contact your health provider if you think you might infected or at risk.
Alternate ways of infection:
- Congenital transmission (pregnant mother to baby)
- Blood transfusion/Organ transplantation
- Accidental lab exposure
- Consumption of uncooked food or drinks contaminated with feces from infected bugs
Who is at risk:
- People living in substandard housing
- Animals living in/People who have animals living in collective animal housing (henhouse, stables)
- Do NOT touch the bug with bare, uncovered hands
- Any surfaces that come into contact with the bug can be disinfected with bleach or other common household disinfectants
- Insecticides can be used in the house and yard to target these bugs
- Screening blood donations for the disease
By: Madison Cole