A parasitic sickness known as “kissing bug” disease is spreading quickly in the United States. So far, about 300,000 have been infected in the U.S. with the disease that could be life-threatening.
Blood-sucking bugs are spreading a dangerous parasite. Kissing bugs spread the infection by biting a human, typically on their face (hence the nickname – kissing bugs), and then defecating near the wound. The parasite can then get rubbed into the open wound or get into the body if someone touches their mouth or eyes afterward. The excrement of a kissing bug contains the parasite that causes the virus; a disease known as Chagas.
“So while they’re biting you, ‘kissing’ you in the middle of the night, they also happen to be defecating there,” said Dr. Robert Springer, according to WRBI Radio. “You wake up the next morning, you’re wiping the sleep out of your eye and you’ve just moved infected excrement into your eye and into your mouth mucous membrane. Then you become infected.” The symptoms include swelling of the eye or area where the parasite entered the body. It can also be associated with fever and headaches, but in extreme cases, the Chagas disease can be deadly.
Chagas disease can cause life-threatening heart issues, including heart disease, strokes, arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest. About one-third of those infected will develop chronic heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. “If untreated, infection is lifelong and can be life-threatening,” the CDC warned.
The “kissing bug” insects are known as triatomines and are starting to become more common in the U.S. The Chagas disease, which has spread to the U.S., was previously only found in Central and South America and Mexico, according to Fox News.
At least 8 million people have been infected in those Latin Ameican areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s most recent report in December 2017, and an estimated 300,000 Americans in the U.S. also have the disease, a recent news release from the American Heart Association (AHA) states. “Early detection of Chagas disease is critical, allowing prompt initiation of therapy when the evidence for cure is strong,” Caryn Bern, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California in San Francisco, warned in an online statement.
A total of 11 species of kissing bugs have been spotted in the U.S., so far and the majority of those species are concentrated in the states along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, a research team at Texas A&M have documented kissing bugs in at least 28 states across the United States. “Previous studies have found that, on average, 50% of kissing bugs are infected with the Chagas parasite,” the Texas researchers wrote on a website that details their extensive studies of the insects.
The parasitic disease can also be passed on to others through contaminated food or drink, from pregnant mothers to their babies, and through blood transfusions and organ transplants.