Chagas disease, or trypanosomiasis, is a disease caused by a parasite known as Trypanosoma Cruzi. The disease is spread by insects of the Triatominae family, also known as kissing or assassin bugs. The symptoms differ according to the different stages of the infection. There are mild to no symptoms in the early stage of the disease. The affected individual then enters the chronic phase of the disease after 8 to 12 weeks of infection. Some go on to develop symptoms 10 to 30 years after the initial infection.
The insects that spread this disease can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Central America, and Venezuela. In 2015, regions such as Central America, Mexico, and South America were estimated to have 6.6 million cases. It was also estimated to have caused 8,000 deaths that year. Most individuals who have the disease are poor and are not aware of the infection.
Other methods that can spread the disease include organ transplantation, blood transfusion, consumption of contaminated food, and vertical transmission. The diagnosis of the early stage of the disease involves finding the parasite in the blood with the help of a microscope. Chronic disease can be diagnosed by the identification of antibodies for the parasite in the blood.
Preventative measures include increasing awareness of the bugs, eliminating the insects, and avoiding being bitten. The use of bed nets and insecticides can be helpful. Screening of blood before using it for transfusions is also performed. Treatment for early infections includes medications such as nifurtimox and benznidazole. The longer the disease has been in the body, the less effective the medication. However, medications can delay end stage symptoms in chronic disease.
Symptom #1: Fever
Fever or a febrile response is defined as a higher than normal set point in body temperature. This increase in temperature causes a feeling of coldness and muscle contractions in an effort to produce and conserve heat. A fever can be seen in viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. It also occurs from non-infectious causes such as cancer, vasculitis, side effect of medications, and deep vein thrombosis.
A low fever is the body’s natural response to fight off an infection, as the increase in temperature enhances the immune system. To manage a fever, antipyretics such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used.