Emiliana Rodrguez remembers when she was a child, and a group of her friends played soccer at night. One of the players passed out and died during the game.
Rodrguez, who was born and raised in Bolivia, didn’t know what had happened, so she started to fear the night and Chagas, a “monster” she had heard, only came out at night. One of the 12,000 people who die each year from Chagas is someone Rodrguez knows.
Chagas is a different kind of monster. It is a “silent and silenced disease” that bugs that come out at night spread to up to 8 million people each year.
Emiliana Rodrguez, now 42, has had Chagas disease for 27 years, even though she moved from Bolivia to Barcelona. She calls it a “monster.” “Most of the time, the fear came at night. She said, “Sometimes I don’t sleep.” “I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up from my sleep.”
Rodrguez found out she carried the Chagas disease when she was about to have her first child, which was eight years ago. She talked about the death of her friend and said, “I was paralyzed with shock and thought of all the stories my family had told me about people dying suddenly.” I was worried about what would happen to my baby.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, went to therapy so that the parasite wouldn’t be passed on to her baby through the womb. The test on her new baby girl came back negative.
Before her 18-year-old daughter was identified with Chagas, Elvira Idalia Hernández Cuevas, who lives in Mexico, had never heard of the disease.
Idalia, a Mexican girl, was giving blood in her hometown near Veracruz when her sample was looked at. She was found to have Chagas, a disease that is spread by bugs that feed on human blood and are sometimes called “kis*ing bugs” or “vampire bugs.”
In an interview with the Guardian, Hernández said, “I had never heard of Chagas, so I looked it up on the internet.” “I was scared to death when I read that it was a quiet kil*er. I had no idea what to do or where to go.” She is not the only one who doesn’t know that these annoying bugs can make people sick.
In 1909, Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas, a Brazilian doctor and researcher, found the first case of Chagas disease in a person. In the last few decades, Chagas disease has spread to more places, including the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.
Kis*ing bugs hide in the walls of low-income homes in rural or suburban areas during the day. At night, when people are sleeping, they come out. The T. Cruzi infection is spread when an infected bug bites a person or animal and then poops on the skin. This makes it more likely that the person will scratch the spot, which lets the bug’s waste into the body through cuts or sores.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that most of the 6 to 7 million people around the world who have Chagas disease don’t know they have it. They live in South America, Central America, and Mexico.
The illness that causes death can be left untreated for a lifetime. About 12,000 people die each year from Chagas, which kil*s “more people in Latin America than any other parasite disease, including malaria,” according to the Guardian. Even though these bugs have affected close to 300,000 people in the United States, the problem is not widespread.
The CDC says that even among people who don’t have any symptoms, 20–30% can develop heart problems that could be deadly or GI problems that can cause a lot of pain decades after the initial infection. The fact that only 10% of people around the world are diagnosed makes it harder to treat and avoid.
Hernández and her daughter Idalia went to see different doctors to get help, but those doctors didn’t know anything about Chagas or how to treat it, either. “I was shocked, scared, and sad because I thought my daughter was going to die.
“Most of all, I couldn’t find any good information, which made me worry even more,” Hernández said. Idalia got the help she needed when she contacted a cousin who worked in the medical field.
Hernández says, “The Mexican government says there aren’t many people with Chagas disease and that the disease is under control, but that’s not true.” “Doctors and nurses don’t learn anything about Chagas, so they often mistake it for other heart diseases. Most people don’t know that Chagas lives in Mexico.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that Chagas is a neglected tropical illness in terms of world health policy.
Treatment for Chagas diseaseColin Forsyth, a research manager at the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), said that Chagas is often ignored because “it’s a silent disease that stays hidden in your body for so long” because the first part of the infection doesn’t cause any symptoms.
Forsyth added to what he had already said by saying, “The people who are hurt just don’t have the power to change healthcare policy. It stays hidden because of the way biology and society work together.”
Recently, it has been found that Chagas disease can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, as well as through blood transfusions and organ transplants. This is because the disease is spreading to new countries.
Professor David Moore, a doctor at London’s Hospital for Tropical Diseases, started the Chagas Hub with the goal of testing and treating more people and reducing the chance of passing the disease from mother to child, which happens in the UK. Moore has said that progress on getting rid of Chagas is “glacial,” and when asked about the WHO goal of getting rid of the disease by 2030, he said, “I can’t think that we’ll be even close. That doesn’t seem likely at all.”
Moore says that the treatments for Chagas disease that have been used for at least 50 years are “toxic, uncomfortable, and not very effective.” Benznidazole and nifurtimox are two of these treatments.
A baby can be healed, but there’s no guarantee that the same drugs will stop or slow the disease in an adult. Rodriguez’s worst responses were an allergic rash, feeling dizzy, and feeling sick. She is done with treatment and now gets checked every year.
Moore says that stopping the spread of Chagas disease needs more effective treatment, but drug companies don’t see any business value in making such drugs right now. As head of the International Federation of Associations of People Affected by Chagas Sickness (FINDECHAGAS), Hernández is on a mission to make the silent illness louder so that more treatments can be made.
I think I’ve found a bug called a triatomine. What do I need to do? In order to stop this “monster,” Rodriguez is in Spain, where she is working with the Barcelona Institute for Global Health to raise understanding of Chagas disease.
Rodriguez says, “I’m tired of all the silence.” “I want Chagas to be talked about and known about. I want people to get checked out and get help.” Plus, people are listening to them.
The World Health Organization made April 14 World Chagas Disease Day in honour of the day in 1909 when Carlos found the first person with Chagas disease.
“Global targets and milestones have been set for 2030 to prevent, control, eliminate, and eradicate a diverse set of 20 diseases and disease groups,” says the World Health Organization (WHO). Even Chagas is a part of it.
To avoid an infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following steps:
Fill in the gaps between the floor, roof, walls, and doors.
Remove any trash from the area around your house.
Fix window and door screens that are broken and use them.
Lock up any doors that lead outside, to the basement, to the attic, or to the rest of the house.
Especially at night, cats should sleep inside.
Keep your home and any places outside where your pet hangs out clean, and check for bugs often.
If you find a kissing bug, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say you shouldn’t squash it. Better options are to carefully put the bug in a jar and fill it with rubbing alcohol or freeze it in water.
Then, bring the bug in its container to a university lab or health office so it can be identified. It’s scary to think that these bugs live in our walls. It’s like the monster-in-the-wall stories you heard as a kid. Chagas and other Neglected Tropical Diseases should be wiped out, and we hope that the WHO keeps its promise to do so.