A Serious Epidemic Could Be Looming in Texas – Chagas Disease

Chagas Disease

Kissing Bug

This disease is NOT to be taken lightly. It is widespread and serious.

This could be a deadly epidemic looming and yet nobody is taking notice or reporting it in the mainstream press.

What is this disease?

According to PLoS Neglected Tropical Disease website a group of infectious disease specialists, virologists and epidemiologists state that Chagas disease is the real deal and should not be taken lightly.

It is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, remains a serious public health concern in many areas of Latin America, including México.  It is caused by the parasiteTrypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to animals and people by insect vectors that are found only in the Americas (mainly, in rural areas of Latin America where poverty is widespread). Chagas disease (T. cruzi infection) is also referred to as American trypanosomiasis.

In the United States, Chagas disease is considered one of the Neglected Parasitic Infections, a group of five parasitic diseases that have been targeted by CDC for public health action.

According to the CDC 8 to 11 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America have Chagas disease, most of whom do not know they are infected.

How do you get the disease?

In Chagas-endemic areas, the main way is through vectorborne transmission. The insect vectors are called triatomine bugs. These blood-sucking bugs get infected by biting an infected animal or person. Once infected, the bugs pass T. cruzi parasites in their feces. These bugs are found in houses made from materials like, mud, adobe, straw and palm thatch. During the night, when the inhabitants are sleeping, the bugs emerge. Because they tend to feed on people’s faces, triatomine bugs are also known as “kissing bugs. ” After they bite and ingest blood, they defecate on the person. The person can become infected if T. cruzi parasites in the bug feces enter the body through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. The unsuspecting, sleeping person may accidentally scratch or rub the feces into the bite wound, eyes, or mouth.

 What are the signs and symptoms of Chagas disease?

Much of the clinical information about Chagas disease comes from experience with people who became infected as children through vectorborne transmission. The severity and course of infection might be different in people infected at other times of life, in other ways, or with different strains of the T. cruzi parasite.

There are two phases of Chagas disease: the acute phase and the chronic phase. Both phases can be symptom free or life threatening.

The acute phase lasts for the first few weeks or months of infection. It usually occurs unnoticed because it is symptom free or exhibits only mild symptoms and signs that are not unique to Chagas disease. The symptoms noted by the patient can include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. The signs on physical examination can include mild enlargement of the liver or spleen, swollen glands, and local swelling (a chagoma) where the parasite entered the body. The most recognized marker of acute Chagas disease is called Romaña’s sign, which includes swelling of the eyelids on the side of the face near the bite wound or where the bug feces were deposited or accidentally rubbed into the eye. Even if symptoms develop during the acute phase, they usually fade away on their own, within a few weeks or months. Although the symptoms resolve, the infection, if untreated, persists. Rarely, young children (<5%) die from severe inflammation/infection of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or brain (meningoencephalitis). The acute phase also can be severe in people with weakened immune systems.

During the chronic phase, the infection may remain silent for decades or even for life. However, some people develop:

  • cardiac complications, which can include an enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy), heart failure, altered heart rate or rhythm, and cardiac arrest (sudden death); and/or
  • intestinal complications, which can include an enlarged esophagus (megaesophagus) or colon (megacolon) and can lead to difficulties with eating or with passing stool.

The average life-time risk of developing one or more of these complications is about 30%.

Chagas Disease Composite Risk Texas Map

Chagas Disease Composite Risk Texas Map

Sahotra Sarkar, professor of integrative biology and philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin and lead author of a paper on the disease published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. He states that, “We’ve been studying this for four years now..”

The disease is endemic in Texas. Blood-screening is NOT mandatory and physicians are not required to report this disease’s occurance to health authorities. WHY?

Looking at the map the areas of Texas at greatest risk are: San Antonio, Dallas -Ft. Worth and Houston.

 Why hasn’t this made the mainstream press? 

 

 

References:

http://www.plosntds.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pntd.0000836

http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas/index.html

http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas/gen_info/index.html