Frequent asked questions

What is Chagas?
Chagas is a disease caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasite transmitted by the conenose (kissing) bug /vinchuca, a vertebrate-blood feeding insect that colonizes rural and peri-urban areas in Latin America.
Over the past decades, a higher incidence has been found in USA, Canada, Spain and other Western Pacific countries. To a large extent, this is due to migration flows between Latin America and the rest of the world.

How is Chagas transmitted?
Chagas is transmitted to humans mainly through contact with conenose (kissing) bugs/ vinchucas, blood transfusion, transplantation of organs coming from infected individuals, consumption of contaminated foods or beverages, or vertical transmission from an infected mother to her child, during pregnancy or delivery.

What are the symptoms of Chagas?
Many years may go by until heart or digestive symptoms appear. The most common causes of death are cardiovascular events and, occasionally, sudden death.

DIAGNOSIS

How is Chagas diagnosed?
Chagas is diagnosed through a simple blood test. In Argentina, this diagnostic test is provided free of charge at any public hospital.

How do I know if I should be tested for Chagas?
If you, your mother or grandmother were born in areas where Chagas is found, we recommend that you visit a doctor and ask them to indicate a blood test.
In Argentina, the test for Chagas is performed free of charge at any public hospital.

What am I supposed to do if I tested positive for Chagas?
In the case of a positive test, a visit to the doctor as soon as possible is fundamental because the sooner treatment is began the greater its effectiveness.
People with a Chagas diagnosis must have medical checkups regularly.

TREATMENT

How is Chagas disease treated?
There are two drugs to treat the disease: Benznidazol and Nifurtimox. The sooner treatment is administered, the better the results obtained. It is important that diagnosis and treatment are received before symptoms of the disease appear.

Is the treatment safe?
In most people that take it, there are no secondary effects. However, medical controls are required for the correct management of any potential adverse effects.

How is Chagas treated in children?
Children treatment is quite effective and the earlier it is started the better. In newborns and until the end of their first year of age, a 30-day long treatment is recommended. In children more than 1 year old the recommended treatment is for 60 days. The drug dose must be indicated by the pediatrician.
At present, benznidazol is available in 12.5 mg pills, which is the dose required to treat 0-2 year old children.

Can alcohol be consumed during treatment?
No. Alcohol consumption is absolutely forbidden during Chagas treatment. It is also recommended to not eat fried foods, chocolate or get exposed to sun.

May I receive treatment for Chagas while I am taking other medication?
Some medicines can be used while on treatment for Chagas, but there are others that cannot. If you are using medication to treat another illness, you should inform your doctor before starting treatment for Chagas. Your doctor will tell you whether it is safe to take both medications at the same time.

Is Chagas infection the same thing as Chagas disease?
Chagas not always evolves to a disease. It is an infection caused by a parasite (Trypanosoma cruzi). Approximately 30 % of infected people will end up with heart and/or digestive symptoms.

CHAGAS AND PREGNANCY

If I have Chagas and receive treatment, will my baby be free from the infection?
Childbearing age women who are infected with the Chagas parasite are recommended to receive treatment before they become pregnant.
Treatment significantly reduces the probability of infection transmission.

Should my baby have a diagnostic test for Chagas?
It is very important that a diagnostic test is conducted on newborns and at 9 months, because early treatment will cure the infection in almost all cases.

What should I do if I become pregnant during treatment?
You need to tell your doctor immediately. He/she will recommend what to do in this event. It is highly probable that your treatment will be interrupted then and continued after you have ended breast feeding.

TRANSMISSION

Can I get Chagas disease when donating blood?
No. You cannot get Chagas disease by donating blood. Needles are used only once and then disposed of. Sterilized procedures and equipment are part of blood banks work routine.

Could I get Chagas by receiving a blood transfusion?
Blood transfusions today are conducted after ruling out the presence of the Chagas parasite, or any other infection, so that transfusions are safe.

Can I get Chagas through food?
Chagas infection can be transmitted through food contaminated by infected conenose bugs / vinchucas. In Latin America, the consumption of some beverages like Açai juice and juice obtained from some palm trees like majo milk or guava juice may result in transmission if they have been in contact with infected vinchuca feces.

Can I get Chagas through skin contact, saliva or sexual intercourse?
Chagas disease is not transmitted by skin contact, sharing kitchen utensils or bath cloth, nor can it occur because of kissing, hugging or having sexual intercourse.

PREVENTION

My parents were born in an endemic area, do I need to be tested for Chagas?
If your parents were born in areas where the disease has been found, we recommend visiting the doctor and requesting a blood test.

Do all conenose or kissing bugs/ vinchucas transmit Chagas?
No. Not all of these insects are infected with Chagas.

I have seen a vinchuca / kissing bug. What should I do?
If you think you’ve seen a vinchuca/kissing bug try catching it with your hand protected with a plastic bag so that you avoid contact with the insect. If you get to catch it, you should take it to the nearer health center to have the specimen analyzed and confirm whether it actually is a vinchuca / conenose bug and then check whether or not it is infected with Chagas. If you failed to catch the bug, you should take precautions to prevent being stung by it, like using a mosquito net, closely examining the place where you are going to sleep and covering all food to prevent infection by oral transmission.

I am going to get an organ transplantation; how can I ensure that I will not get Chagas through the procedure?
Transplantation protocols include organ checkup to eliminate the Chagas transmission risk.

Health centers where you can receive care if you have Chagas disease or suspect that you could have it.
– If you live in Argentina we recommend you to visit a doctor and ask for a blood test. This test is carried out free of charge in all public hospitals in the country.
-If you are a resident of Bolivia, Colombia, Spain, USA, we recommend you to click on the link below, where you can identify all health centers involved in Chagas diagnosis and treatment: www.infochagas.org/es/donde-acudir

RELATED WEBSITES
PAHO/WHO: Guide for Chagas disease diagnosis and treatment.
http://iris.paho.org/xmlui/handle/123456789/49653

Argentina: Chagas Act
http://test.e-legis-ar.msal.gov.ar/leisref/public/showAct.php?id=11447#’

Argentina: Guides for the care of patients infected with (Trypanosoma cruzi) / Chagas disease
http://www.msal.gob.ar/images/stories/bes/graficos/0000000622cnt-03-guia-para-la-atencion-al-paciente-con-chagas.pdf

     

Mundo Sano is a family foundation that, through field research, contributes to public policies intended to improve the lives of people suffering from neglected tropical diseases (NTD's), which are those that affect the most vulnerable segments of society. At present, Mundo Sano has its headquarters and five other offices in Argentina. In addition, it has set up an office in Madrid, from which the foundation implements various programs in Spain and Africa.

mundosano@mundosano.org