Is Chagas disease the new AIDS?

by Kirsten VanderJagt |

Why are blood banks now screening for Chagas disease?

The transmission of Chagas disease via blood transfusion is a recognized risk. Screening tests recently have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Screening for Chagas disease makes the blood supply even safer for everyone.

How does the screening test protect people from Chagas disease?

The blood screening test allows blood banks to destroy potentially infectious blood before it is given to anyone. Screening will prevent those who are found to have the disease from donating blood again.

What happens to the blood that tests positive on the screening test?

The blood that tests positive will be removed from the blood supply.

Will I be tested automatically?

Yes. Most donors will only be tested once and if the result of their test is negative for Chagas disease, they will not be tested when they donate again.

If my blood tests positive on the screening test, does that mean I have Chagas disease?

Probably. However, no test is perfect. Some false-positive results may occur with these very sensitive tests. You should discuss your results with your health care provider.

What does a “false-positive result” mean?

A “false-positive result” occurs when an initial test indicates a person has Chagas disease, but further testing indicates the person does not have the disease after all.

Will the blood bank let me know if my blood tests positive for Chagas disease?

Yes. The blood bank will contact you if you test positive for Chagas disease and will provide general information about the disease.

Can I get Chagas disease from donating blood?

No. You cannot contract Chagas disease from donating blood. The needles are only used once and are discarded. Sterile procedures and equipment are routine at blood banks.

Can Chagas disease be spread through blood transfusions?

Yes. The disease can be spread by receiving blood that came from a person with Chagas disease.

Can Chagas disease be spread through donated organs?

Yes. Chagas disease can be spread to an organ transplant recipient if a donated organ came from a person with Chagas disease.

If I test positive for Chagas disease, can I give blood again?

No. You cannot donate again if you’ve tested positive for Chagas disease.

If I was diagnosed with Chagas disease in the past, can I donate blood?

No. If you have ever been diagnosed with Chagas disease, you will not be able to donate blood.

If I have had a transfusion or a transplant, should I be concerned about getting Chagas disease?

Probably not. The risk is very low. You should, however, be aware of the potential risk for Chagas disease infection and the need to monitor your health. If you have symptoms of Chagas disease or other concerns you should contact your health care provider.