Chagas – the Kissing Bug Disease and travel to Latin America

As tropics account for a significant portion of annual tourist travel destinations, malaria, dengue and other mosquito born diseases have always been on top of the list of tourist alerts as to what preventive measures one should take up before and after arrival at destination. But considering that there is another disease that statistics show effects parts of namely Central and South America, including Caribbean, even more so than malaria, bilharzia, leishmaniasis even leprosy combined, the traveling public needs to be better informed. That disease is Chagas.

Named after a Brazilian doctor Carlos Chagas that discovered it, Chagas disease is often-fatal infection carried by bugs that typically bite their victims on the face during night when the victims are asleep. For their unromantic nocturnal style they have been referred to as “kissing bugs”. Despite the fact that the disease has been discovered a hundred years ago, it is still

not well-known, even though much of the tropical world suffers from it. The insect relishes adobe-style mud hut dwellings hence rural villages of Latin America are most affected though the disease has been recorded in the urban areas as well, from Peru to Chiapas of southern Mexico. In Bolivia apparently up to 50% of village population suffer from it and in recent years the disease has taken on considerable increase also in the lowlands of northern Argentina, including Iguazu Falls region, a popular tourist destination. Effective medicine to combat Chags is limited and only two drugs have been known to cure the disease in its early stages, but of the more than 10 million that contract the disease a third is reported will develop fatal heart and bowel problems. Do not fear the disease! , if you plan to visit primitive villages in the outback of Mexico or Amazonia, for example, employ same preventive measures as you’d against mosquitoes, apply ample doze of Deet and sleep under a mosquito net.

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