Chagas disease

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) is caused by a parasite transmitted by triatoma.


© WHO

Triatoma are large bedbugs, also called kissing bugs. They live in palm trees, (thatched) roofs and cracks in the walls of primitive houses.

They appear at night, suck blood from their victim and leave behind faeces containing the parasite. Infection occurs when these are rubbed into the bite wound or into mucosae or after eating or drinking contaminated food, such as freshly pressed juice of sugar cane or guava, or by a blood transfusion.

Travellers are rarely infected, but adventurous travellers who spend the night in cheap hotels or the open air in remote areas are at risk.

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages. Sometimes a red swelling appears after several days, often in the face.

Fever, headache, diarrhoea or vomiting can also occur. Severe gastro-intestinal or cardiac problems can occur years after infection. 

Risk areas

Chagas disease only occurs in some rural areas in Central and South America.

Prevention

Clothing

Cover the body with clothing as much as possible.

Insect repellent

Use an insect repellent on exposed areas of skin.

Insecticide spray

Check for bedbugs everywhere - including under the mattress and in drawers - and use an insecticide spray (including on the sheets) if this is the case.

Permethrin

Use clothing, shoes and tents that have been treated with permethrin if possible.

Impregnated mosquito net

Sleep under an impregnated mosquito net  and place a sheet over the net to prevent faeces from dropping down.

Overnight stay

Try to avoid overnight stays in cheap hotels, primitive huts or in the open air.

Vaccination

There is no vaccine available.

In case of symptoms

Seek medical advice if you suffer any symptoms.

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