While most people consider HIV/AIDS as being the final nail on the coffin, now there's a new terror that will make you want to stay indoors and avoid bugs for the rest of your life.
See this stabby-looking bug? According to the New York Times, this bug is responsible for a new disease called Chagas, which is caused by parasites that get into our bodies by way of these blood-sucking insects. Contracting the disease causes about one quarter of people to develop enlarged hearts or intestines which can eventually fail and result in death.
An editorial published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases was the first to deem Chagas as, "the new AIDS of the
Americas." The reason is that the disease itself shares some similar characteristics with HIV/AIDS.
Besides being transmitted by bugs, infection can also be passed from mother to child and also by blood transfusion. The reason Chagas has been so difficult to control is that being infected carries a stigma so people are reluctant to seek medical help, which is something many HIV patients can relate to. And the resulting stigma leads to further spread of the disease. Treatment usually involves months worth of very harsh drugs, which tend to be in short supply in the poorer countries where they're most needed.
Currently, it's estimated that there about eight million people in the western
hemisphere with Chagas; mainly in Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, and Central
America. However, more than 300,000 cases have already been reported in
the United States, and most of the people infected here are immigrants.