Kissing Bug Bite- Cause of Chagas Disease Throughout Texas

Chagas disease caused by kissing bug is an infectious disease and can easily be cured just in case if caught early and treated with the right drugs. But if the condition prolongs and the infection progresses in the body, it can cause heart failure and lifelong illness.

The insect lives throughout Texas and is responsible for causing acute and chronic illness in humans, and death in most severe cases. It does not just affect humans but kissing bug causes the infection in pets as well and progresses more quickly in them.

And yes, don’t be fooled by the innocent name of the kissing bug, its painless bite is deadly for humans, most commonly human babies, and for people suffering from weak immune systems. They are also called assassin bugs and they carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease in humans and pets, most commonly in dogs.

If you are not sure how to find kissing bugs in your house then look around mattresses, and bloodstains on bed sheets and pillows are another sign of their presence.


What is Kissing Bug?

It is a wingless insect of about 0.75-inch-long size with dark brown or black color with red or orange spots along the edge of the body and bug feeds on humans and pets. They are most commonly seen in warmer months and are attracted to outside lights sometimes.

Kissing bugs is also called Trypanosoma Cruzi and they are most commonly found in Mexico, Central, and South America. And it has been found in 27 states of the United Nation but is most common in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Melissa Nolan, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina stated that bugs’ reach is venturing into urban and suburban neighborhoods of the United Nation.

They are named kissing bugs from their habit of biting around the mouth and are also called vampire bugs for the same reason. They hide during the day in the dark areas of your room and are only active during the night and feed on you when you fall asleep. They are commonly found in places where your pets like dogs and cats live and are also rich in areas where mice and rodents live.


Kissing Bug in Texas:

So far 11 types of kissing bug species variable in size are discovered in Texas and 50 to 60 percent carry the deadly parasites. This parasite is involved in causing Chagas disease which is considered a major tropical neglected disease according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. And according to World Health Organization 8 to 10 million people are infected with this parasite around the globe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention granted a $544,329 award to the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health to direct effort and training on Chagas infection in South Texas in 2015.

“The kissing bug is everywhere, it’s in Houston, it’s in San Antonio, it’s in Corpus Christi. And many people infected with the disease have been bitten many times,” reported Paula Stigler-Granados, an assistant professor in the Department of Management, Policy and Community Health at the School of Public Health in San Antonio.

A 100-member Chagas Task Force, involving doctors, university researchers, veterinarians, and entomologists is lead by Paula Stigler-Granados. The aim of the Chagas Task Force is to raise awareness of this neglected, under-reported, and misunderstood disease among health providers.

This task force recently published a guide to help Texans protect themselves from serious health hazards caused by this disease.

Researchers reported that they had discovered 5000 kissing buds since 2012 at Texas Agriculture and Mechanical university college of Veterinary Medicine and all of them were from Texas.

Hamer Lab’s Rachel Curtis-Robles, with the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M, reported that they generally let folks know that approximately 55-65 percent of the kissing bugs that they test are positive for the Chagas parasite.


What is Chagas Disease?

Brazilian hygienist and bacteriologist Carlos Chagas discovered Chagas disease, American trypanosomiasis in 1909. Chagas disease results due to parasite Trypanosoma Cruzi that is species of kissing bug and phases of Chagas disease are the acute phase and the chronic phase. And both phases can lack symptoms or can become life-threatening in severe cases. Cruzi parasite causes allergic reactions in humans and other common signs and symptoms of Chagas disease caused by parasite include:

  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Selling around mouth
  • Redness around eyes
  • Cardiac complications
  • Gastrointestinal complications
  • Inflammation of tissues
  • Infection of heart and brain tissues.

And no vaccine is discovered for Chagas so far but an early diagnosis can prevent infection from spreading in the body.

How to Treat Kissing Bug Bites?

Signs and Symptoms of these triatomine bugs include the appearance of patches of redness around the mouth and the infected area may swell which looks like hives that cause itching.

Few home remedies can be of help, wash the bites with soap to lower the chance of infection. For itching, you can use calamine lotion, anti-itch cream, or other ointments to help itch and irritation.

Insecticides are helpful in killing few types of insect vectors called Trypanosoma cruzi but as they can fly so insecticides might not be effective in some cases. So in such cases, environmental management is the best option. Removing wood and brush piles from yards, kid’s play area, and pet’s area can also be of help. Clean tool sheds and makes sure there are no rat nests near your property, wood, and house surrounding.

The best option is to seek medical and professional help if these remedies do not work.

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