Most people have never heard of Chagas, until now, but it’s a tropical disease that’s being spread by insects, such as mosquitos, and the frightening part of this is that experts are calling it the new AIDS epidemic in the United States.
More than 8 million people have been infected by Chagas, most of them in Latin and Central America. But more than 300,000 live in the United States. An editorial about the disease was recently published by the Public Library of Science’s Neglected Tropical Diseases.
“There are a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas disease and people living with HIV/AIDS,” the authors wrote, “particularly for those with HIV/AIDS who contracted the disease in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
Both diseases disproportionately affect people living in poverty, both are chronic conditions requiring prolonged, expensive treatment, and as with patients in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, “most patients with Chagas disease do not have access to health care facilities.”
Unlike HIV, Chagas is not a sexually-transmitted disease: it’s “caused by parasites transmitted to humans by blood-sucking insects,” as the New York Times put it.
“It likes to bite you on the face,” CNN reported. “It’s called the kissing bug. When it ingests your blood, it excretes the parasite at the same time. When you wake up and scratch the itch, the parasite moves into the wound and you’re infected.”
“Gaaah,” Cassie Murdoch wrote on Jezebel.com, summing up the sentiment of everyone who read the journal’s report.
Chagas, also known as American trypanosomiasis, kills about 20,000 people per year, the journal said.
And while just 20 percent of those infected with Chagas develop a life-threatening form of the disease.
Moreover, the disease is “hard or impossible to cure,” and 11 percent of pregnant women in Latin America are infected.