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(also called American trypanosomiasis), a transmissible parasitic disease of humans and animals caused by trypanosomes. The disease was described in 1909 in Brazil (state of Minas Gerais) by the physician C. Chagas. It occurs in Central and South America, chiefly among the poorest strata of the population, who live in dwellings infested by transmitters of the disease (bloodsucking hemipterous insects, mainly triatomids). Humans and wild and domestic animals suffering from Chagas’ disease are the sources of infection.
Infection occurs when the causative agent, together with insect feces, enters injured skin or the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth. The main symptoms are fever and enlargement of the lymph nodes in the acute stage, with involvement of the heart and gastrointestinal tract when the disease becomes chronic. The main methods for controlling Chagas’ disease are improvement of social and living conditions of the people, disinsectization, and destruction of infected animals.