Chagas cases in the US are on an alarming incline and the potentially fatal disease is becoming a growing public health problem, especially for populations living in endemic areas. According to a July 27 9 News report, approximately 8 million people have Chagas disease, which is passed to humans by "kissing bugs," or triatomines. Doctors and medical experts are especially worried because in the US, few people know about the disease. And according to recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 300,000 people may be infected in the US.
As Wikipedia explains, Chagas is transmitted by the kissing bug or the bug through their feces. The bug usually lives in cracks or holes in poorly constructed houses and those with animal pens nearby. The disease may also be spread through blood transfusion, organ transplantation, eating food contaminated with the parasites, and from a mother to her fetus.
Named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, Chagas was first discovered in 1909. The CDC reports that it is found only in the Americas (mainly, in rural areas of Latin America where poverty is widespread). Chagas disease (T. cruzi infection) is also referred to as American trypanosomiasis.
In the United States, Chagas disease is considered one of the neglected parasitic infections, a group of five parasitic diseases that have been targeted by CDC for public health action, the report states.
Health officials warn that Chagas is gaining traction among immigrants in the U.S., particularly near Washington, D.C. NewsMax Health pointed out that around a dozen cases of the disease have been diagnosed near the US capital, and doctors and experts say they wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers were higher.
Due to so few cases of Chagas, doctors don't regularly screen for it and many remain unfamiliar with the disease. Chagas doesn’t pose a serious threat to the general population in the United States as of now, and patient advocates believe it is being largely ignored because of its connections to poverty and immigration.