People may become infected with Chagas’ Disease in several ways:
1. Through the bite of a blood sucking insect, called the Reduviid, Triatomine bugs, or “kissing bugs”, approximately 1 inch in size that deposits feces onto the skin of it’s victim after feeding on the blood of the unsuspecting person or animal. The insect’s bite is painless, however, the feces when left on the skin may cause the area to itch. When the person or animal scratches at the bite wound area, the feces may enter the skin and deposit a parasite which then infects the victim.
2. Through infected organ transplants or blood transfusions: In at least ten third-world countries, screening of their blood supplies are mandatory by law, however, in the Spring of 2006, the United States does not screen the blood supply nor organ transplants for the presence of Chagas’ disease. Some are of the opinion that the risk of acquiring Chagas’ from a blood transfusion is greater in urban areas because of the larger number of blood transfusions in a metropolitan setting and because migrants from rural areas may enter urban centers and donate blood that is infective for Chagas’ disease (Reiche 1996). A South and Central American study in 1993 of 10 countries, and a 1994 study conducted in South America showed that the risk of acquiring Chagas’ disease through a blood transfusion was greater than the risk of acquiring some of the more well known diseases such as AIDS or HIV, Hepatitus B, Hepatitus C, and Syphilis (Schumunis 1998).
3. People may also be infected if they touch their eyes, mouth, or any open wounds such as cuts, after touching or coming into contacted with “kissing bug” feces.
4. The kissing bug may also place their feces right into a person’s eyes, causing infection
5. Uncooked food that contains infective kissing bug feces can also be a method of transmission
6. Mothers can transmit the disease through pregnancy or birth. The disease has also been documented in cases of mothers who breastfeed. (Bittencourt 1992). It is not known whether the transmission occurs through the mother’s milk which has been shown to contain the parasite, or through bleeding nipples.