The interesting aspect about the increase in North America is that the parasite doesn’t even originate here. But with the increases in global transport of people and food, it is spreading worldwide. Cases have been discovered as far as Europe and Japan.
Mr. Norris, your recent “C-Force” articles on the diseases caused by deer ticks (Lyme disease) and tapeworms (neurocysticercosis) were very enlightening. However, I just read a new health alert from England about another rapidly growing disease in North America: Chagas’ disease. Heard of it? – Sincerely, Sean R., Wisconsin
Yes. Chagas’ disease is another parasite-based disease, and it is so pervasive here and in South America that Baylor College of Medicine’s Peter J. Hotez and his colleagues are calling it “the new AIDS of the Americas.”
Chagas’ disease got its name from the Brazilian physician Charles Chagas, who first recognized the disease in 1909 – though it had been around for more than 9,000 years (even discovered in mummies from the ancient Chinchorro culture of South America).
WebMD has just posted an excellent article on Chagas’ disease, explaining that it is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. Once human cells are infected by the parasite and it multiplies within them, those cells burst and deploy the parasites into the bloodstream.
The acute phase of Chagas’ (in the initial weeks and months of infection) is often unnoticed because symptoms can be minor and similar to those of the flu – fatigue, body aches, fever, headaches, appetite loss, rashes, vomiting and diarrhea. (There is one unique symptom, which I’ll discuss momentarily.) But in some cases, it can take years for symptoms to manifest themselves.