Special 3 August, 2016 Isabel Vallejo
Antiparasitic treatment may stop or prevent the progression of Chagas disease.
The insect that transmits the disease, known in Colombia as triatomine or “kissing” bugs, prey on humans due to the fact that they feed on blood. After a bite, it defecates in the area around the bite and leaves a large number of parasites that enter into the body when the person scratches the area.
While the following are less frequent, Chagas can also be transmitted through a blood transfusion, congenitally (from an infected mother to her baby) or through donated organs.
This condition was named after Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas, the Brazilian doctor and researcher that discovered it in 1909. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is found primarily in 21 countries throughout the region of the Americas. The most affected regions in Colombia are the rural areas of Arauca, Boyacá, Cundinamarca, Santander, Norte de Santander, Casanare and Meta. In Colombia there are at least one million people infected with the disease and three million people at risk of infection.
In the majority of cases, the symptoms of the first stage of Chagas disease are fever, physical discomfort, lack of appetite, swelling in the site where the parasite entered, swollen liver and spleen and a poorly functioning heart. Chronic stage symptoms, which may appear between 15 and 20 years after encountering the initial symptoms, include fatigue after performing light work, and a poorly functioning and enlarged heart and intestines.
A blood test can confirm the symptoms. If the individual suspects that they are a carrier of the disease, it is recommended that they go to the doctor, as many patients do not now when they got infected and may go through their whole lives with the parasite feeling just fine.