Undercovered: Chagas, other tropical diseases afflict surprising number in U.S.
NPR's Shots health blog today highlights a little-known fact: rare tropical diseases actually affect millions of (mostly immigrant or poor) Americans. Writes Jaclyn Schiff, a Kaiser Health News reporter:
You might think think tropical diseases like hookworm and elephantiasis have gone the way of smallpox, which was eradicated about 30 years ago. Or, that they are just obscure problems affecting people in the most remote parts of the developing world.
But several million Americans, mostly immigrants and the poor, have some of these conditions, which are often going unrecognized by American doctors.
For example, Chagas disease, a parasitic disease that often causes no symptoms at first but can lead to irreversable heart and esophagus damage, was discovered in eight blood donors in San Antonio in early 2009.
For example, one Los Angeles cardiologist is treating a number of immigrants from Latin America with Chagas disease, but public health officials aren't necessarily monitoring or know much about these diseases, Schiff writes. Which raises the question: what's going on in your community? It's worth checking in with your local public health department and local immigrant groups.
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