Chagas disease

    • Brief

    • Chagas disease is caused by a parasite found in the faeces (pooh) of an insect called a kissing bug. The bug drops its faeces on a person’s face, or the bug bites to feed and infects the person through skin breaks. Other ways to become infected include receiving blood that hasn’t been screened, transplanting an infected organ or from mother to child before or during birth.

      Chagas disease can be mild, causing swelling and fever, or it can be a long-term infection. It can cause severe complications such as heart failure. Your healthcare provider will prescribe anti-parasitic medicines to kill the parasite and manage the symptoms. This disease is common in rural areas of countries like South America, Central America, and Mexico, and it is estimated that about 8 million people have the infection. No cases of the disease have been found in Nigeria so far. To prevent contracting Chagas disease, prevent getting bitten by the kissing bug or eliminate the bugs.

    • What are the symptoms?

    • The acute phase of Chagas disease, which lasts for weeks or months, is often symptom-free. When signs and symptoms do occur, they are usually mild and may include:

      • Swelling at the infection site.
      • Fever.
      • Fatigue.
      • Rash.
      • Body aches.
      • Eyelid swelling.
      • Headache.
      • Loss of appetite.
      • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting.
      • Swollen glands.
      • Enlargement of your liver or spleen.

      Signs and symptoms that develop during the acute phase usually go away on their own. In some cases, if the infection isn't treated, Chagas disease will advance to the long-term (chronic) phase.

      Signs and symptoms of the chronic phase of Chagas disease may occur 10 to 20 years after initial infection, or they may never occur. In severe cases, Chagas disease symptoms may include:

      • Irregular heartbeat.
      • Heart failure.
      • Sudden cardiac arrest.
      • Difficulty swallowing due to enlarged esophagus (gullet in your throat).
      • Stomach pain or constipation due to enlarged colon.

    • What are the causes?

    • Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) is a disease caused by the parasite (trypanosoma cruzi) found in the faeces of an insect called a kissing bug. The bug leaves the faeces on your skin after biting you to feed at night. This way, the parasite enters you through your eyes, mouth or skin cuts.

      You can also become infected if you receive unscreened blood for transfusion from a person who has Chagas disease.

    • What are the things that put you at risk?

    • The following increase your chances of getting infected:

      • Eating uncooked food contaminated with faeces from bugs infected with the parasite.
      • Living in or travelling to countries in Latin America with high incidence of the disease. Especially to rural areas where people live in mud or thatch houses.
      • From mother to child before or during birth.
      • Getting a blood transfusion or an organ transplant from someone who was infected with the parasite.

      Generally, as there are no drugs or vaccines to help prevent Chagas disease, controlling the kissing bug and preventing it from infecting you is the best course of action.

    • When to visit a doctor?

    • If you notice you have Chagas disease symptoms and you have travelled to or lived in an area where Chagas disease is common, you should see your doctor immediately.

    • How to prevent?

    • If you live in South or Central America and Mexico, you should avoid staying in a mud or thatch house, sleep under long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) and use indoor residual insecticide sprays to control the kissing bug. Only accept blood for transfusion that has been screened for infections.

    • How to manage and treat?

      • When traveling to areas where Chagas is common use insecticide-soaked netting over your bed, and avoid sleeping in thatch or mud houses.
      • Use insecticides to remove insects from your residence.
      • Use insect repellent on exposed skin.

    • Kulawa cares

    • Although people who have Chagas disease can be found anywhere in the world, transmission of the disease by kissing bugs only occurs in the Americas. Therefore, your chance of getting infected in Nigeria are practically non-existent. However, if you are traveling to areas where Chagas is common, follow the given recommendations to minimize your chances of getting infected and stay alert for symptoms.