Amid a nationwide travel advisory to Belgium, the United States Centers for Disease Control has added the northeastern country to its highest level of risk for outbreak of the highly infectious Chagas disease, its website announced on Friday. The alert indicates the CDC does not think the outbreak is likely to be local in origin, but rather in response to an infected person’s contagiousness in an international travel, according to USA Today. It is accompanied by warnings that the disease has a “crippling effect” on brain development in children.
“This infection, called Chagas disease, does not spread easily from person to person, but it can affect people who are migrant workers or living in rural areas or in low-income areas,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, in a statement. “The disease can cause crippling or fatal diseases and this is why it is a serious public health problem.”
In recent years, the World Health Organization has classified approximately half of the countries in Central and South America as being at a high risk for the disease, as well as the United States. In 2013, the virus killed some 2,000 people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, according to BBC News.
Last year, four American hikers were infected with the disease in Mexico. At least three people in the U.S. have died from the disease over the last three years. The disease can also make travelers extremely infectious if they are infected with camp fever, which usually runs in families for generations.
Infection with Chagas disease is uncommon in the U.S., in part because, unlike the country of Hispaniola, we don’t have any indigenous transmission systems. “Where in the world are they?” Frieden asked during a conference last year. “Where are they?”
Click here to read the full story.