Posted by Jonathan Johnson on 6/3/2012 to
It is estimated that more than 8 million people - most of them living in Central or South America - are infected with Chagas, although some 300,000 of those who are infected reside in the U.S.
A recent medical journal report calling it "the new AIDS of the Americas" has sparked concern, especially since the disease does indeed attack with the same sort of veracity as the HIV virus.
"There are a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas disease and people living with HIV/AIDS," the authors wrote, "particularly for those with HIV/AIDS who contracted the disease in the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic."
Although it is typically spread by bites from insects, Chagas lives in the blood and is easily spread from mother to child and via blood transfusions, meaning that any contact with infected human blood could be deadly. The disease is difficult - if not impossible - to cure.
"About a quarter of its victims eventually will develop enlarged hearts or intestines, which can fail or burst, causing sudden death. Treatment involves harsh drugs taken for up to three months and works only if the disease is caught early," wrote the New York Times.
The issue for health care workers, law enforcement personnel and first responders is clear: Personal protection equipment to guard agains the passing of blood-borne pathogens is once again highlighted, as human susceptibility to new forms of disease is never-ending.
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