Vector-borne diseases should be a concern to all people who travel overseas, especially when visiting tropical locations. Although people can contract vector-borne diseases while in the United States, the risk of contracting a vector-borne disease within tropical locations is much more likely. During the Zika outbreaks of 2015 and 2016, most American victims contracted the virus while visiting tropical locations in South America and the Caribbean. One of the most common vector-borne diseases in the world is known as chagas disease. While most Americans may be unfamiliar with chagas disease, people living in Mexico and South America are not. At the moment, six to seven million people are living with chagas disease, and the vast majority of these infected people live in Latin America.


Chagas disease used to be limited to the Americas, but global travel has caused the disease to spread to other continents. Historically, chagas disease cases in America have been relatively low. However, many researchers are concerned about the rapidly increasing rates of chagas disease within America during the past few years. The number of Americans who have been diagnosed with chagas disease has now reached 300,000. Unfortunately, seeking treatment for chagas disease can be difficult in America, as the drugs used to treat the disease are in low supply. Nobody knows this better than one California woman who was forced to wait several months before her case of chagas disease could be treated by medical professionals.


Several months ago, a California resident, Lynn Hodson, sustained what she assumed was a mosquito bite while camping in her home state. However, the itching and swelling persisted for many weeks. Initially, Hodson decided to avoid the doctor. Eventually, Red Cross personnel contacted Hodson to inform her that her blood contained parasites that lead to chagas disease. If Hodson had not donated blood to the Red Cross, she may never have learned of her deadly disease. Hodson learned that chagas disease must be treated as soon as possible in order to avoid serious health complications or even death. Unfortunately, Hodson’s treatment could not begin for another two months, as pregnant women and children with the disease were prioritized for treatment. Five months after sustaining the bite, Hodson underwent treatment, but she continues to worry about the consequences of not being treated for a long period of time. Chagas disease is spread by the kissing bug. These bugs bite people’s faces before defecating near the wound. Afterward, people will spread parasite-containing feces into their wound by excessively itching the site of the bite. Hopefully, Hodson will remain healthy for years to come.


Do you fear bites from kissing bugs?