For the first time, the international community is on Tuesday celebrating World Chagas Disease Day to raise awareness of this neglected and entirely treatable tropical disease.

“The only way to keep people safe from Chagas disease is to stop its transmission. It’s known as a silent disease because it can live quietly in the body until the late stages when it may cause fatal cardiac damage. But early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference”, said WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a video message for the day.

The Triatoma or “kissing” bug.

‘Kissing bug’ comes out at night

Chagas disease is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. It is named after Dr. Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas, the Brazilian doctor who diagnosed the first case on 14 April 1909.

Transmission can happen in several ways, though mainly through an insect known as the triatomine bug — popularly known as the “kissing bug” — which can carry the parasite.

The bugs typically live in the walls of a home or in other structures such as chicken coops, animal pens and warehouses. They normally are active at night, when they feed on the blood of humans or animals by biting exposed skin, such as the face, which is how they got their nickname.

Read more at UN News