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Tracking Chagas And Other Tropical Diseases To North Texas

Dr. Seema Yasmin told Krys Boyd about the "seven scourges of the tropics" Texans are at risk of contracting.

As a med student, Dr. Seema Yasmin learned tropical diseases like Chagas shouldn't concern aspiring physicians based in London or the U.S. She was surprised to find Americans were indeed among the 1.5 billion people afflicted with one of the illnesses - yet, they were hearing the same thing from their doctors: it couldn't be. Yasmin talked with Krys Boyd on "Think" about the "seven scourges of the tropics" Texans are at risk of contracting. 

The interactive Hidden Threat: The Kissing Bugfrom "The Dallas Morning News" and NBC5 lists symptoms of and treatment for the seven diseases that could reach North Texas. The Chagas parasite, carried by the beetle-like kissing bug, gets top billing. One in every 6,500 blood donors in Texas have the infection it spreads, whereas one in every 27,500 donors across the country tested positive, "The News" reports. Flu-like symptoms are most common, but one in three patients will develop heart problems. 

We're also warned of two mosquito-spread illnesses en route - Dengue and chikungunya. (Don't forget West Nile, which also makes the roster.) 

Texas is especially vulnerable, Yasmin says, because of the high levels of poverty in the state. People who don't have secure windows in their homes are more at risk. And climate change is causing increased infection on a global scale. 

Lyndsay Knecht is assistant producer for Think.