Each summer, health officials warn Americans to be on the lookout for disease-carrying pests such as mosquitoes and ticks. But few people are conscious of the kissing bug.
Triatomine bugs, commonly known as kissing bugs, are vectors for a harmful parasite which can result in a debilitating disease in humans known as Chagas disease. If left untreated, the infectious disease can become lifelong and painful, and sometimes cause death.
The key is early treatment, however, many Americans living with the disease are unaware they have this, and a recent study indicates physicians are underdiagnosing it.
It is such a neglected disease,” said Melissa Nolan, assistant professor in the University of South Carolina
But health experts say the disease is not only difficult to diagnose — sometimes requiring multiple tests — it may require CDC intervention to treat
“Chagas isn’t something which most physicians consider in the U.S.,” said Dr. Wesley Long, medical director of microbiology in Houston Methodist Hospital
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What is Chagas disease and how do you get it from a kissing bug?
Chagas disease is caused by a parasite named Trypanosoma cruzi. The kissing bug can pick this up parasite when feeding in the blood of an infected animal.
Kissing bugs are commonly located in South and Central America, and Mexico, however, doctors are starting to count instances in states like Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and California, respectively according to some Texas A&M University program analyzing Chagas disease.
The rate of kissing bugs infected by the parasite is abnormally high compared to other insects that carry disease, said Gabriel Hamer, associate professor in the department of entomology at Texas A&M.