Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to animals and humans through insects. These bugs are often referred to as ‘kissing bugs’ because they frequently bite humans on the face. Chagas disease is common in South America, Central America and Mexico. Rare cases of Chagas disease have also been found in the southern United States.
Two phases occur in Chagas disease. During the first, or the acute phase, the patient may contract common symptoms such as fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, diarrhea, and vomiting. The second, or chronic phase, may develop after and the patient may develop heart failure, heart attack, or intestinal stomach pains and difficulty passing stools. Treatment with specific drugs is recommended for people diagnosed in the acute phase of infection, congenital infection, and for those with weakened immune systems.