Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma Cruzi (T. Cruzi). This parasite is spread through triatomine (kissing bugs) insect bites. Chagas can affect anyone, but it is very vulnerable to children, especially those living in parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Chagas Disease Causes
As mentioned above, this disease is caused by parasite Trypanosoma Cruzi through triatomine. In general, triatomine insects live in straw, mud, or cracks of buildings made of brick. These insects usually hide during the day and out at night, especially to suck the blood of humans who have fallen asleep.
After eating, triatomine insects will usually get rid of dirt. The dirt contains T. Cruzi parasites and can enter the human body through the eyes, mouth, or open sores on the skin. After entering the body through the skin, T. Cruzi parasites then multiply and spread. Besides through the bite of triatomine insects, you can also be infected with T. Cruzi parasites if:
- Consume raw food or foods that contaminated with the parasite
- Receive a blood transfusion or organ from an infected donor
- Born by an infected mother
- Approaching wild animals or pets that have contracted the parasite
- Work in a laboratory with the risk of being bitten by insects carrying the dangerous parasite
The risk of contracting Chagas disease also increases if a person lives in a remote area or travels to areas with high exposure to T. Cruzi parasites.
Chagas Disease Symptoms
The Chagas disease symptoms are very variable, ranging from sudden (acute) or chronic (chronic) events. The level of severity symptoms also varies from those who do not show symptoms at all, mild symptoms, to severe. In the early stages, the patient may experience a series of mild symptoms such as:
- Swelling or rash on the part that is bitten
- Feeling tired and pain in the body
- Swollen eyelids
- A headache
- Decreased appetite
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Swollen lymph nodes
- The liver or spleen is dilated
- Breathing difficulties
- Pain in the abdomen or chest
In general, these mild symptoms will be felt for several weeks or months and will disappear on their own. The slow treatment may result in the patient experiencing a more chronic condition and difficult to recover. Some Chagas disease symptoms that are included in the chronic category are:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty swallowing due to the swollen esophagus
- Abdominal pain or constipation due to dilation of the large intestine
- Heart failure
- Sudden death due to damage to the nervous system and heart muscle
Chagas Disease Treatment
Not all people with Chagas can be cured. For patients who are still experiencing initial symptoms, the doctor may prescribe several drugs taken to relieve and kill T. Cruzi parasites such as benznidazole and nifurtimox. Both drugs are believed to be very effective against T. Cruzi parasites.
The longer the parasite settles in the body, the more difficult the treatment is. When it has entered the chronic phase, Chagas cannot be treated entirely. For patients who are under fifty years old, the treatment can be given with the aim of slowing the severity of the disease and reducing the risk of very serious complications.
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Until now, there is no specific vaccine to prevent Chagas. However, there are several ways we can do to minimize the risk of contracting T. Cruzi parasites as the cause:
- Spray inside and around the house with insecticides
- Do not live in areas that are muddy, filled with hay, or in huts for a long time
- Install mosquito nets on the bed
- Use mosquito repellent lotion
- Maintain food hygiene and storage
- Check blood, organs, cells, and donor tissue before transfusion
- Perform regular uterine examinations
Chagas disease is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma Cruzi through insect bites. Until now, there is no specific vaccine to prevent Chagas. However, there are several ways we can do to minimize the risk of contracting T. Cruzi parasites.