There’s another parasitic illness epidemic that’s spreading across the United States, so take note. Doctors are warning of a disease called Chagas, which can cause strokes and heart failure and has so far sickened 300,000 American in 27 states. An insect known as the “kissing bug” transmits Chagas disease. The bug is so named because they typically bite a person’s face, near their mouth.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many symptoms to show that a person has been infected with the disease. According to reports, the disease has been mostly found in Central and South America, but 300,000 cases have been reported in the U.S.
The American Heart Association released a statement to warn that doctors need to better recognize, diagnose and treat Chagas disease or else it will become a huge outbreak.
According to the Daily Mail, “Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which lives in the gut of a bug that transmits the disease, the triatomine insect, which is also known as the ‘kissing bug.’”
The disease spreads through the bug’s feces as they feed on a person, they defecate and, if those feces is accidentally rubbed into a wound or eye, an infection can develop.
There are two phases, with the first being acute, which lasts a few weeks or months after the infection, according to the CDC. Symptoms during this stage include fever, headache, fatigue, rash, or swelling near the bite wound or where the feces were deposited or rubbed into the eye.
There are some anti-parasitic medications that can treat Chagas during this stage with a 60 to 90 percent success rate, according to the AHA.
The second phase is the chronic stage, in which the parasites have entered the heart muscles and digestive muscles and, according to the Daily Mail, “about 30 percent will develop an enlarged heart, arrhythmias, or an enlarged esophagus and colon.”
This can result in complications such as stroke or cardiac arrest. There are no drugs that will cure Chagas in the chronic state, but medication may slow the disease’s progression down for those under age 50.
In the United States, most of the reported cases are in the south and west, including Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and California.
Dr. Caryn Bern, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California in San Francisco, notes in the statement: “Early detection of Chagas disease is critical, allowing prompt initiation of therapy when the evidence for cure is strong.”
One commenter on the Daily Mail‘s coverage of this illness has seen these bugs in their area, noting: “These bugs are all over the Charlotte, NC area. They have a very mechanical, prehistoric way of walking… like a robot or dinosaur. It’s kind of fascinating to watch. They are also very large, almost the size of my palm (I’m a petite female) so that helps to keep them outside, to a degree… but they used to get in through our fireplaces, at my old house, and I woke up to one walking away from the foot of my bed one morning, about 5 years ago, and was not happy about that, as I was well aware of the disease they carry and how it’s transmitted.”