Is Chagas disease the "new AIDS of the Americas"?!

There are very few things that truly, truly scare me. Getting HIV/AIDS is absolutely one of them, though. Just the thought freaks me out. I am way too paranoid about it but it's a paranoia that I actually don't really mind having. I've always been a "better safe than sorry" girl and this is no different.

When I read reports about Chagas disease, what experts are calling the "new AIDS of the Americas," I was even MORE freaked out. I found out that most cases have been occurring in Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia and Central America, and honestly--it makes me never want to travel!


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Ok, I'm sure that I'm just overreacting, right? I mean, news of some new, tropical disease isn't exactly the most surprising thing in the world. It does happen and I really don't want this to stop me from going abroad. But the more I read about the disease, the more scared I get. Chagas disease has a lot of similarities to HIV/AIDS: it is difficult to detect, has a long remission period and easily spreads through blood transfusions and from mother to child.

Unfortunately, what scares me the most is that, unlike HIV, Chagas disease is spread through bugs. Now, I will fully admit that I hate bugs. Who doesn't? They're gross and ugly and some of them bite, and now they're the reason for the increase in Chagas disease! The life-threatening parasitic illness has been spreading through the bites of blood-sucking insect species called Triatome bugs and is considered one of five Neglected Parasitic Infections by the CDC.

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The worst part about the disease, though, is that it can take a long time to even figure out if you have it. In the acute phase, many have no symptoms while others have only a fever or have swelling in one eye. Then the disease goes into remission until the severe phase, when people begin to suffer from constipation, abdominal pain and digestive problems. Eventually, the parasite makes its way to a person's heart, multiplies, and can literally MAKE YOUR HEART OR INTESTINES EXPLODE!

I'm trying not to overreact but, considering that about 10 million people have it now, I really don't want to risk it. It freaks me out to no end and, well, as if I didn't already hate bugs enough...

Have you heard about Chagas Disease? Will it keep you from visting your country? Share with us in the comments below!

Image via travfotos/flickr

Topics: diseases