A disease researchers are calling “the “new AIDS” is making its way into the United States from Latin America.
Chagas disease is transmitted by a black, wingless beetle that feeds on human blood, according to Business Insider. Because the Triatoma bug typically feeds near the lips of sleeping victims, it has become known as the “kissing bug.” After it feeds, it defecates on the victim, releasing a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. The unwitting party then scratches the itch and smears the parasite into the wound.
The disease is particularly dangerous because it has a long incubation period that has drawn comparisons to HIV/AIDS, Business Insider reported.
During the acute phase, Chagas sufferers experience general sickness, including swelling in one eye and fevers, according to Business Insider. In the acute phase, the disease goes into remission. When it returns, the severe stage can cause major digestive issues, including an enlarged heart or a deadly bursting of the intestines for a quarter of sufferers. The disease can be spread between humans by blood transfusions, organ transplants or congenitally from mother to child.
Initially, Chagas was known to only be an issue in Mexico, Latin and South America. Recently, however, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, noticed several locally occurring infections.
The researchers analyzed Texas blood donors between 2008 and 2012 and discovered one in every 6,500 had the disease — 50 times more than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimates, The Washington Post reported.
The disease may be immigrating to the United States with southern border crossers and those who have travelled to countries where Chagas is a problem.
It’s yet another concern highlighting why border security remains deadly serious.
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