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.
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.
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.
Warning over spread of Chagas disease: Health systems outside of Latin America need to be equipped to recognise, diagnose, and treat Chagas disease that spread outside of Latin America including Japan and countries in Europe. https://t.co/eLZLw1bYL5 pic.twitter.com/Ol7xTdDmJ9
— Juan C Ivancevich MD (@Aller_MD) August 23, 2018
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.
Chagas' disease spreading across US pic.twitter.com/jwQgpTKnrN
— Freedom (@nmskyblue) August 23, 2018
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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