ZocdocAnswersIs chagas common in the United States?

Question

Is chagas common in the United States?

My friends in Costa Rica complain of chagas. Is this something that can happen to me in the United States?

Answer

Chagas disease is a parasitic infection caused by a tiny microscopic organism that infects various cells in the body, leading to multiple complications but, most commonly, problems with heart failure many years after the initial infection. In some countries in Latin America, Chagas disease is one of the most common causes of heart failure. There are very few human cases of Chagas disease in the United States. Virtually all of these occur in immigrants from Latin America who contracted the disease prior to moving to the United States. The parasite technically is found in some parts the south western United States, such as Texas close to the Mexican border, where it is transmitted between small wildlife by a biting insect. However, the chances of coming in contact with this insect (it tends to come out at night and live in thatched roofs and mud adobe walls) is quite minimal, even in these areas of the country. The more common place where Chagas is found is in donated blood products that are donated by people who are already infected. However, for a number of years now the United States has screen all donated blood for Chagas, so there is little chance of getting it this way either.

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