Doctors Warn About Potentially Lethal 'Kissing Bug' That May Already Have Infected 300,000 Americans


The triatomine bug, cone-nose bug or chinch, otherwise known as the “kissing bug,” is beginning to spread potentially dangerous Chagas disease through the United States.

Roughly 300,000 Americans may already be infected with Chagas, and 20 times that many people may be affected worldwide, according to American Heart Association data cited by Business Insider.

At night, the triatomine bug feeds on mammals by drawing blood, usually from near the eyes or mouth. After it has ingested the blood, the bug often defecates on the mammal the blood was drawn from.

The kissing bug can carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease, in its feces.

According to Science Daily, the parasite will break its host’s skin, leading to the spread of disease. This can also happen through the parasite being rubbed into the skin or eyes.

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The symptoms of Chagas disease are not apparent at first. In fact, the disease is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer.”

It is typical that if the disease is spread through the eye, the infected person may have swollen eyelids. Other general symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, body aches, and headaches, may be present, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center’s website.

As the disease continues to develop in the human body and reach later stages, more symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting, may occur.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are two main phases of the disease: acute and chronic. The acute phase will have mild symptoms and slight enlargement of the spleen or liver.

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While symptoms may go away on their own within a few weeks or months, if untreated, the disease will continue to infect the body, causing more serious issues 30 percent of the time.

The chronic phase of Chagas disease can lead to cardiac and intestinal complications. The heart, esophagus and colon can become enlarged, thus leading to heart failure, cardiac arrest and trouble eating.

This disease is commonly found in Central and South America, but the kissing bug is evidently migrating north, as there have been reports of the increase in its population in southern states, such as Texas, Florida and California.

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As the disease continues to spread in the U.S., medical professionals need to be adequately equipped and trained to recognize the symptoms and treat infected patients.

Research is underway to discover new and improved treatment methods, as more and more Chagas disease cases become more common throughout the U.S.

Chagas disease is primarily spread through the kissing bug, but it can also be spread through blood transfusions, or even childbirth.

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Jennifer Bushnell is a graduate student at Ohio State University seeking to broaden her horizons in the field of writing. She loves to travel the world and will be spending much of 2018 living in Southeast Asia. In her free time, she loves laughing, reading, playing tennis and hanging around in her hammock. You can most likely catch her with some type of coffee in her hand.
Jennifer is a graduate student at Ohio State University getting her master’s degree in social work. She has a passion for community development work and serving large-scale communities to help then reach self-sufficiency. She also dabbles in missionary work as much as she can. She has co-authored a peer-reviewed article, traveled twice to Southeast Asia and New Zealand and blogs for her home church. She enjoys playing guitar, reading, laughing, tennis, and hammocking as much as she can.
Chardon, Ohio
Outstanding senior award for undergraduate studies; certified in Bridges out of Poverty Training
Bachelors of social work and global & international studies
Books Written
Fresh Fruits: A 30-Day Devotional
Chardon, Ohio
Languages Spoken
English, some Hindi, some Tamil
Topics of Expertise
Health, Faith