Chagas disease, or American trypanosomiasis, is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and has been gaining attention in the news. The infection may be on the rise in some areas of the South, especially South Texas and the Gulf Coast. Chagas disease is usually acquired through contact with the feces of an infected triatomine bug, also known as a kissing or assassin bug, a blood-sucking insect. Animals, including dogs and people, can be affected by the disease, which may lie dormant for several years and is hard to detect and treat. Chagas disease is of increasing concern because of emigration to the U.S. from Mexico, Central and South America, where the disease is common.
The young, elderly and those with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to complications from the infection, which may include heart and intestinal problems. Insect control with insecticides and houses that are less likely to have high insect populations will help control the spread of the disease.
Click here for WebMD’s information and resources about the disease. Click here for more information on your risk factors, diagnosis and prevention at the Centers for Disease Control. Click here to read about chagas disease in dogs; it can be particularly dangerous for dogs less than two years old.