In an article by Daisy Hernandez in The Atlantic Thursday titled, “Northern Virginia: ‘Ground Zero’ for Kissing Bug Disease”, she says that Northern Virginia, home of the most Bolivians in the United States, is essentially the epicenter of the parasitic infection, Chagas disease.
This is due not only because Virginia has the most Bolivians (more than California and New York combined, she writes), but also the non-profit drug research and development (R&D) organization, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) reports that Bolivia sees the most vector transmitted cases annually.
According to Dr. Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, the estimated number of cases of Chagas disease in the United States is somewhere between 300,000 and 1 million. The United States is ranked 7th among nations for the amount of cases.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi). It is found mainly in endemic areas of 21 Latin American countries.
About 7 million to 8 million people worldwide are estimated to be infected with the parasite.
T. cruzi parasites are mainly transmitted by the infected feces of blood-sucking triatomine bugs. In addition, the parasite can be transmitted via food contaminated with T. cruzi through for example thecontact with triatomine bug feces, blood transfusions using blood from infected donors, passage from an infected mother to her newborn during pregnancy or childbirth, organ transplants using organs from infected donors and laboratory accidents.
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