Tropical medicine experts warned at a meeting this week about the potentially life-threatening “kissing” bug disease. According to their statements, the disease is making its way onto U.S. territory.
This disease, also known as Chagas, is caused by a parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi. Once the bugs infect a human being, they spread and suck the blood from the carrier’s face. The infection can lead to heart problems, other major complications and death. Until recently, Chagas cases have been concentrated in Mexico and South America. However, now this threat might become global. A team of experts from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas followed 17 patients from the Houston area who were infected. At least six of them got the parasite locally and lived in rural areas.
We are finding new evidence that locally acquired human transmission is occurring in Texas,” Nolan Garcia stated.
The team also caught 40 kissing bugs from Texas counties and discovered that 73 percent of the bugs were carrying the parasite and half of them had sucked human blood, as well as the blood of animals. Additionally, one in every 6,500 blood samples donated in Texas hospitals were tested for the parasite and showed signs of exposure to Chagas.
We were astonished to not only find such a high rate of individuals testing positive for Chagas in their blood, but also high rates of heart disease that appear to be Chagas-related,” Nolan Garcia said in a statement released by the tropical medicine society. “Physicians should consider Chagas when patients have swelling and enlargement of the heart not caused by high blood pressure, diabetes or other causes, even if they do not have a history of travel.”
The researchers stress the importance of raising doctors’ awareness about the disease across all states since the infection can also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. It affects approximately seven to eight million people throughout the world.
Read more here – “Experts: Beware of the Kissing Bug,” (Cheri Cheng, Councel & Heal).
Anna is a current student at The George Washington University in Washington, DC with a concentration in Marketing and Communication. She specializes in social media outreach and has experience working in government contracting.