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What is Chagas disease

Chagas disease is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, sometimes called a kissing bug and related to the African trypanosome that causes sleeping sickness. It is one of the major health problems in South America. Due to immigration, the disease also affects people in the United States. The infected blood-sucking bugs spread it. When the bug bites you, usually on your face, it leaves behind infected waste. You can get the infection if you rub it in your eyes or nose, the bite wound or a cut. The disease can also spread through contaminated food, a blood transfusion, a donated organ or from mother to baby during pregnancy. If you notice symptoms, they might include: fever, flu-like symptoms, a rash, or a swollen eyelid. These early symptoms usually go away. However, if you don’t treat the infection, it stays in your body. Later, it can cause serious intestinal and heart problems. A physical exam and blood tests can diagnose it. You may also need tests to see whether the disease has affected your intestines and heart. Medicines can kill the parasite, especially early on. You can also treat related problems.

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