Is the Chagas Disease Really Like HIV/AIDS?

by Feeds of Today

As many know, the media doesn’t have a very good rap for providing through information for an informed reader. Luckily, we here with NewsFeed of Today try to make sure we are well-informed and get our point across.

Just today, Yahoo! News posted an article “Chagas: Is a tropical disease really the new ‘AIDS?'” and as per the usual with Yahoo! News, their information isn’t necessarily the greatest and appears to be designed to create a wide-set panic. The article claims, “There are a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas disease and people living with HIV/AIDS,” the authors [of an editorial, published by the Public Library of Science’s Neglected Tropical Diseases] wrote, “particularly for those with HIV/AIDS who contracted the disease in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

Yahoo! News also claims that “Both diseases disproportionately affect people living in poverty, both are chronic conditions requiring prolonged, expensive treatment, and as with patients in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, “most patients with Chagas disease do not have access to health care facilities.””

ALl of the information provided is shocking and not entirely correct.

According to U.S. National Library of Medicine – The World’s Largest Medical Library, “Chagas disease is an illness spread by insects. It is common in South and Central America. It is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi [the Kissing bug], a parasite related to the African trypanosome that causes sleeping sickness. It is spread by reduvid bugs and is one of the major health problems in South America. Due to immigration, the disease also affects people in the United States.”

“The risk factors include: living in a hut where reduvid bugs live in the walls, living in Central or South America, poverty, and receiving a blood transfusion from a person who carries the parasite but does not have active Chagas disease.”

“The symptoms of the acute phase include: fever, general ill feeling (malaise), swelling of one eye, swollen red area at site of insect bite. After the acute phase, the disease goes into remission. No other symptoms may appear for many years. When symptoms finally develop, they may include: constipation, digestive problems, pain in the abdomen, swallowing difficulties.”

However, as many people know, these various symptoms can occur for many different reasons and if they don’t clear up within a reasonable amount of time, then an individual should make haste to see a doctor. Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you think you may be infected with Chagas disease.

If you believe you have Chagas, “a physical examination can confirm the symptoms and the signs may include: Cardiomyopathy, enlarged liver and spleen, Enlarged lymph nodes, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), rapid heartbeat (tachycardia). Tests include: Blood culture, Chest x-ray, Echocardiogram, electrocardiogram (ECG), enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA), and Peripheral blood smear.”

Finally, there are two drugs which are used to treat Chagas, benznidazole and nifurtimox, and treatment is recommended no matter which stage a patient is in.

As with most insect related diseases, there are certain precautionary measures which may assist in the control of the spread of the disease, such as “insect control with insecticides and houses that are less likely to have high insect populations.” It should also be noted that, “blood banks in Central and South America screen donors for exposure to the parasite. The blood is discarded if the donor tests positive. Most blood banks in the United States began screening for Chagas disease in 2007.”

Now Yahoo! News claims there are similarities between people living with Chagas disease and people living with HIV/AIDS. That’s possible, but there are distinctions between Chagas and HIV/AIDS because Chagas does not affect the immune system, and it is only transmitted by blood or mother to child – human to human. Instead of HIV/AIDS, it is actually quite similar to Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus or Malaria, which are transmitted by insects and can be life threatening.  “While HIV/AIDS attacks the body’s immune system, Chagas afflicts the heart and digestive organs.”

To conclude, if you are experiencing any health issues, it is probably best that you contact a doctor and set up an appointment for them to take a look at you. Unless you believe your symptoms require more urgency, then it is probably best that you immediately get to a local hospital/doctor. While the media industry tries its hardest to get relevant news to its readers/viewers, perhaps some media outlets should allow their viewers to make an informed decision, but this is just our opinion.

Sources:

“Chagas: Is a tropical disease really the new ‘AIDS?'” (Yahoo!)

Chagas Disease (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

U.S. National Library of Medicine – The World’s Largest Medical Library

“Chagas Disease; Tropical Insect-Borne Illness May Be ‘New HIV/AIDS of Americas'” (The Huffington Post)

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