Chagas, a Silent Killer
California Healthline ethnic media editor Paula Andalo was interviewed on Aug. 29 on Radio Bilingüe’s “Línea Abierta” about Chagas disease, which is increasingly present in the U.S., with more than 300,000 estimated cases. Still, few patients know they have it.
Chagas is a parasitic disease that affects people primarily in rural Latin America and is spread by an insect known as the kissing bug, because it usually bites close to the lips. But it is also spreading in the U.S., where, doctors, researchers, and patient advocates say, far more could be done to combat it, since only 1% of the nation’s cases have been identified. Once transmitted, it can reproduce silently in the body for decades before a patient may develop serious heart disease and digestive problems from an enlargement of the esophagus and colon.
As some stakeholders push for more testing and treatment, a new drug is set for human trials next year.
Link Between Drug Use and Heat Deaths
California Healthline contributing radio correspondent Stephanie O’Neill Patison reported that heat-related illnesses and deaths are on the rise, noting that increases in drug use and homelessness are exacerbating the problem.
Heat was the underlying or contributing cause in nearly 1,700 deaths nationwide last year — the highest in at least two decades, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unsheltered and older people are especially vulnerable.
In California, about a quarter of heat-related deaths between 2018 and 2022 involved drug use. Methamphetamines can cause body temperatures to rise to dangerous levels. Officials expect the problem to get worse as heat waves start earlier and last longer.
Proposed Licensing Fee Hike for Doctors
O’Neill Patison reported that California is considering raising doctors’ licensing fees to fund the state’s medical board. Patient advocates say the Medical Board of California has long been ineffective, investigating about a tenth of complaints last year. A bill under consideration in the state legislature aims to boost licensing fees, which would help the board cover operational costs, repay loans, and establish a reserve. A representative from the doctors’ lobby told lawmakers that it would accept a smaller fee hike.
The legislation also would require board staff to interview patients or families before closing complaints and allow patients and relatives to make a statement during investigations.