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What is Chagas disease?

Also called American trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Worldwide, it is estimated that 16 to 18 million people are infected with Chagas disease; of those infected, 50,000 will die each year.

Where is Chagas disease found?

Chagas disease is locally transmitted in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. It is sometimes transmitted in the United States.

How is Chagas disease spread?

Triatomine bugs (or "kissing" bugs) live in cracks and holes of substandard housing from the southern United States to southern Argentina. The blood sucking bugs are primarily found in Central and South America and Mexico. Triatomine (sometimes also called reduviid) bugs become infected after biting an animal or person, who is already infected with the parasite.

People can become infected with Chagas by

unknowingly touching their eyes, mouth, or open cuts after having come into contact with infective triatome bug feces

bugs directly depositing infected feces in a their eyes

eating uncooked food contaminated with triatome bug feces

receiving infection from mother during pregnancy or at birth

receiving an infected blood transfusion or organ transplant

Animals can become infected in the same way, or they might eat an infected bug.

Can Chagas disease cause serious illness?

Yes, Chagas can cause serious illness. Many people get the infection during childhood. Usually, the early stage of infection is not considered severe. However, sometimes the disease can cause death, particularly in infants. For about one-third of the persons who get Chagas disease, chronic symptoms develop 10-20 years after infection. For those who develop chronic symptoms, the average life expectancy decreases by an average of 9 years.

Who is most at risk for Chagas...