Sept. 9, 2011, 1:19 p.m.
Chagas, which is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, affects 18 million people worldwide, but is particularly prevalent in Latin American countries, "where a bug called the vinchuga, sometimes known as the kissing bug (because it bites people on their faces while they sleep), transmits the disease," the Atlantic reports. The parasite "remains dormant in peoples' bodies for up to 30 years, until it kills them suddenly by stopping their hearts or rupturing their intestines," the magazine writes.
In Bolivia, nearly 10 percent of the population -- or one million people -- are infected with Chagas, and "[b]ecause of immigration, more and more cases are being reported" in the U.S., according to the Atlantic. The article discusses the efforts of a Los Angeles clinic and the Bolivian government to fight the disease by identifying and treating people, as well as fumigating homes to rid them of the vinchuga. The article also highlights the limited availability and effectiveness of treatment for the infection (Coster, 8/29).