It is deadly, it is spreading quickly, and most of the world has never heard of it. Chagas, a parasitic disease, is spread by the vinchuca bug’s bite.
In rural Argentina, villagers speak of “muerte subita” or rapid death caused by Chagas. It can eat away at the cardiac muscle until the patient’s heart ruptures. It can devour the intestinal wall leading to toxicity and massive internal bleeding. It is incurable in adults and, while it is not always fatal, it is almost always debilitating.
Chagas affects more than 15 million people worldwide, most of them in Latin America and may kill as many as 50,000 each year.
With more and more rural to urban migration, the disease is migrating as well. While it is easy to diagnose with a blood test, it presents few obvious symptoms, so many of those infected may never be properly diagnosed or treated until the disease attacks.
By Ricardo Preve