Experts have named a life-threatening illness the ‘new AIDS of the Americas.’ This problem can be caused by insects that suck blood. The illness is known as the Chagas Disease and it has components similar to the early spread of HIV. Chagas is not easy to detect and it can take years until the symptoms are seen in people, according to the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases Journal.
The disease can be transmitted through the bite of a bug known as the Triatome, a family of bugs that includes the ‘Kissing bus’ (Triatmoids). The majority of the world’s sufferers are found in Mexico, Bolivia, Central America and Columbia. There are roughly 10 million people across the world who suffer from the disease, with 30,000 people being in the United States. Chagas was contained to Latin America for quite some time but travel and immigration brought it into the U.S.
The CDC has put together a group of parasitic diseases for the public to take action against and Chagas is in that group because of the severity of the illness. The disease most often affects people living in poverty-stricken areas and it is commonly found in immigrants in the United States. Should the illness be caught early enough it can be treated with three months of drugs. Chagas is commonly left untreated because of the length of time it takes to treat it and the cost of the medicine. The disease can be easily transmitted from mother to child or through blood transfusions. The disease is screened for in Latin America and U.S. blood banks, with screening in the U.S. beginning in 2007.
The Triatome bugs transmit a parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi in the bloodstream of the victim. The Triatomids are wingless, black, beetles that are 20mm in length. The disease comes in two forms, acute and severe. An acute attack of Chagas brings fever, a feeling of sickness and eye swelling with it. Chagas can go into remission after the acute stage, taking years for the severe symptoms to occur. The severe symptoms include digestive issues, constipation and pain in the abdomen.
In some cases, the parasite in the bloodstream can reach the heart, where it will live and multiply in size. One-quarter of those who suffer from Chagas developed enlarged intestines or an enlarged heart, which can burst and cause sudden death. Not much money is being spent on developing new treatments for the disease and the drugs are very expensive in countries that are poor. The disease was named after Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas, a doctor from Brazil who discovered the disease back in 1909.