Chagas disease

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

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


© WHO

Symptoms 

In the acute phase, there are often no or mild symptoms:

  • Swelling of the eyelid may occur.
  • Sometimes symptoms include fever, generalised muscle pain, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or vomiting.

In the chronic phase, severe gastrointestinal or cardiac problems may develop after many years.

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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