Getting bitten by the kissing bug may sound like fun. However, once you know the kissing bug is an insect that bites human victims around the eyes and mouth, it doesn’t seem so sweet. As if being bitten isn’t bad enough, this bug’s poop may carry a deadly, infectious disease known as Chagas disease. The kissing bug typically resides in warm climates, such as South America or southern U.S. states like Texas. However, it has recently been discovered further north. According to Delaware Online, this insect has been seen in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
8. What Is a Kissing Bug?
The kissing bug is an insect of the Triatoma genus. It also goes by the name conenose bug or triatomine bug. According to Pest World, this bug is typically light brown or black. Some varieties of these oval-shaped insects have red, yellow, or tan marks along the abdomen. Those at higher risk of suffering the bite of a kissing bug are those who live in warm climates. The conenose bugs may enter a home through open doors or torn window screens. They prefer to hide during the daytime and bite their victims while they sleep.
7. What Is Chagas Disease?
Unfortunately, kissing bugs may carry a potentially life-threatening disease called Chagas. According to the CDC, a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi transmits Chagas disease to humans and animals through the feces of insects. Chagas disease can be transmitted to humans when the kissing bug bites the victim and then leaves behind poop. However, Chagas can also be passed from one person to another through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Furthermore, you can contract Chagas disease by eating food contaminated with the feces of the kissing bug. A pregnant mother infected with Chagas disease may pass the infection along to her unborn child.
6. The Acute Phase of Chagas Disease
In some cases, the first few weeks of Chagas disease may present no symptoms. However, it is possible to experience mild symptoms of fever, body aches, rash, diarrhea, and vomiting. Since these symptoms resemble many other conditions, the affected individual may not realize Chagas is the cause. If bug poop containing the Chagas disease parasite is rubbed into an individual’s eye, the eye may become swollen. While a patient may feel better a few weeks after an infection, it is essential to use medication to kill the parasite, or it will remain present in the body.
5. The Chronic Phase of Chagas Disease
If parasites remain in the body, a person enters the chronic phase of Chagas disease. This phase lasts for years. Again, some individuals experience no signs or symptoms of infection. However, the CDC reports that 20-30 percent of infected individuals will suffer from heart disease or gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Cardiac complications may include heart failure, heart rhythm disorders, heart attack, and sudden death. GI complications may consist of an enlarged esophagus or colon. This can cause difficulty in eating or having bowel movements.
4. Diagnosis of Chagas Disease
According to the Mayo Clinic, if your doctor suspects Chagas disease, he or she will use a blood test to confirm infection with the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite. Also, your doctor may use additional tests such as x-rays, electrocardiograms, and echocardiograms to determine the effects of this infection on your organs. Furthermore, your doctor may use an endoscope to check for damage to your esophagus. These tests will help your physician to determine if you are in the acute phase of infection or the chronic phase of infection.Related: 13 Everyday Items That May Help You Banish Ants from Your Home
3. Treatment of Chagas Disease
After making a diagnosis of Chagas disease, your doctor will order treatment. In the acute phase of Chagas disease, anti-parasitic medicines are used to kill off the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite. If Chagas disease has reached the chronic phase, medications may not be able to kill off the parasite and cure your illness. Your doctor may still prescribe anti-parasitic medications to prevent further spread of the infection. At this point, medical treatment will focus on treating heart and GI problems caused by the infection.
2. Who Needs to Worry About Kissing Bugs?
The kissing bug has made its way into some of the northern areas of the United States. However, if you live in this area, you probably do not need to panic over the risk of Chagas disease. According to the CDC, those at the greatest risk for Chagas disease are those in rural parts of Mexico, Central America, South America, and some parts of Latin America. These are often poverty-stricken areas where living conditions allow bugs access to homes. There have been rare cases of Chagas disease in some southern states of the U.S.
1. Prevention of Kissing Bug Diseases
You may live in, or plan to travel in, rural areas of Mexico, South America, or Central America. If so, you can take steps to prevent infection with Chagas disease. You are more likely to contract Chagas disease if you sleep in a crudely built hut without protection against insect infestation. Wearing long-sleeved clothing, using insect repellent, and sleeping under a bed net can help prevent insect bites. Furthermore, avoid eating any raw foods or juices that may contain insect feces.Related: Beg Bugs: How to Stay Pest-Free