‘Kissing Bug’ Disease Infects over 300,000 People in the US

Alexandra Klausner, Daily Mail, November 9, 2014

Over 300,000 Americans have already been infected with the potentially fatal ‘kissing bug disease’ called Chagas but U.S. healthcare workers lack of knowledge about the illness is letting many cases of the parasite unnoticed. Some doctors are calling it the ‘new AIDS’ because of the way it develops.

Researchers who gathered on Tuesday at the annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in New Orleans said that if caught early the disease can be cured however sometimes the disease can be asymptomatic and there is a dearth in medication for the condition.

The CDC reports that the initial symptoms of the disease caused by a parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, which is spread through the feces of kissing bugs includes fever, fatigue, body aches, rash, diarrhea and vomiting. One of the first visual signs can be a skin lesion or a purplish swelling of the lid of one eye.

The disease can develop in the body causing eventual heart failure and other deadly complications that by the time they are realized cannot be helped with medicine.

Chagas is being called the new AIDS because of its asymptomatic beginnings that can turn to a fatal end if the disease progresses.

‘We were astonished to not only find such a high rate of individuals testing positive for Chagas in their blood, but also high rates of heart disease that appear to be Chagas-related,’ said Nolan Garcia, an epidemiologist at the Baylor College of Medicine.

The CDC has said that they believe most of the people infected with Chagas got the parasite in Mexico or South America before coming to the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved two medicines called nifurtimox and benznidazole that are currently used to treat.

The medications also put people at risk for the disease nerve damage, nausea and weight loss, reports Al Jazeera.

The CDC only makes the drugs available when no alternatives exist.

‘The disease can be fatal if not treated,’ said Melissa Nolan Garcia, a research associate at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and co-author of a separate study on Chagas disease in Texas published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene on Tuesday.

‘You are normally asymptomatic until disease has progressed at which time treatment is not helpful. We call this the silent disease,’ Garcia said.

‘The concerning thing is that majority of the patients [I spoke to] are going to physicians, and the physicians are telling them, ‘No you don’t have the disease,’ she said.

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