Chagas disease is caused by a parasite. It is common in Latin America but not in the United States. Infected blood-sucking bugs, sometimes called kissing bugs, spread it. When an infected bug bites you, usually on your face, it leaves behind infected waste. You can get the infection if you rub it in your eyes or nose, the bite wound or a cut. The disease can also spread through contaminated food, a blood transfusion, a donated organ or from mother to baby during pregnancy.
If you notice symptoms, they might include
These early symptoms usually go away. However, if you don't treat the infection, it remains. Later, it can cause serious intestinal and heart problems. Medicines can kill the parasite, especially early on. You can also treat related problems. For example, a pacemaker helps with certain heart complications.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
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|Date last updated: 13 August 2008
Topic last reviewed: 27 June 2008