Kissing bugs while seemingly harmless are spreading some very dangerous disease across the US. If you haven’t been on the lookout for these bugs after reading this, you will be.
Kissing bugs can and it seems usually do carry something known as Chagas disease. Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma Cruzi. According to to the CDC, as many as 8 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South American have this disease.
Most people with Chagas disease are not aware of it themselves. You can become infected in a number of ways, but the kissing bug bite is easily the most common way. It is much easier to spread than you might assume.
People can become infected in various ways. In Chagas disease-endemic areas, the main way is through vectorborne transmission. The insect vectors are called triatomine bugs. These blood-sucking bugs get infected by biting an infected animal or person. Once infected, the bugs pass T. cruzi parasites in their feces.
The bugs are found in houses made from materials such as mud, adobe, straw, and palm thatch. During the day, the bugs hide in crevices in the walls and roofs. During the night, when the inhabitants are sleeping, the bugs emerge. Because they tend to feed on people’s faces, triatomine bugs are also known as “kissing bugs. ” After they bite and ingest blood, they defecate on the person. The person can become infected if T. cruzi parasites in the bug feces enter the body through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. The unsuspecting, sleeping person may accidentally scratch or rub the feces into the bite wound, eyes, or mouth.
People also can become infected through:
congenital transmission (from a pregnant woman to her baby);
consumption of uncooked food contaminated with feces from infected bugs; and
accidental laboratory exposure.
It is generally considered safe to breastfeed even if the mother has Chagas disease. However, if the mother has cracked nipples or blood in the breast milk, she should pump and discard the milk until the nipples heal and the bleeding resolves.
Chagas disease is not transmitted from person-to-person like a cold or the flu or through casual contact with infected people or animals.
When it comes to Chagas disease early detection is critical. Even in endemic countries, the risks of infection are low for residents as well as travelers, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Many are unaware of how strongly connected to heart disease this can be and so global awareness is important. Eleven different kissing bug species have been spotted across the US which can mean a lot for many.
These bugs have actually been known to even bite and cause damage to children and pets. It is hard to determine the number of dogs it has killed as most are never truly tested, just merely put out of their misery. Once you or a pet have been bitten it takes time before the signs begin to show. For more information feel free to check out the video below.