Kissing Bug

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USA- A new insect is slowly being found in more places throughout the world. It has record of being found in Argentina and has made its way to the United States.

This bug is a member of the Reduviidae family of insects. It ranges from ¾ to 1 ¼ inches long and has orange or red stripes along the edges of its body. The insect is called the Kissing Bug or other known as the Vampire Bug. The insect has been known to bite around the eyes, mouth, or arms of the victim.  

These bugs go through many stages of life, where both young and adult version of this insect perform in blood feeding actions. How it survives is by extracting blood meals from their victim. These insects can consume blood from wild or domestic mammals.

“It feeds on blood like a mosquito, and while it takes the blood meal out of someone, it poops, within the feces is a one of the forms of Trypanosoma, the bite causes itching and the feces gets caught in the skin and the trypanosome lives in the skin, it then will change into a form that goes into the blood, once it’s in the blood it goes mainly to the heart. This causes a lot of disease in the organs, and it can cause heart disease”, said Dr. Susan Sharp.

“You could have flu like symptoms, which are usually mild. It takes several years to see damage, it could take 5 to 30 years depending on how old the patient is, how strong their immune system is, or how fast the parasite reproduces”, said Epidemiologist Lucia Orantes.

One specie of this bug is known to carry Chagas Disease. Chagas Disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma Cruzi. Which is transmitted to animals and humans. According to Dr. Sharp, as of now there is no treatment for this disease, once it is in the bloodstream symptoms could show up right away or the disease could be present for many years before showing any sign at all.

People who have Chagas Disease will have it for life. This disease is transmitted from the Kissing bug to a mammal and it recreates itself every time it enters a new body. According to Epidemiologist Lucia Orantes, “about 30% of insects carry Chagas Disease at a time because it flushes out its system every time it feeds on blood meal and only 30% of insects are about to transmit the disease to mammals.

People with Chagas disease are not allowed to donate blood to organizations. If someone wants to donate blood but show no sign of symptoms and someone doesn’t know if they have Chagas disease they take precautions to make sure the disease doesn’t spread.

“It used to be that they would just ask you if they had Chagas Disease, it’s a disease of Central America mainly, so if they said yes then they wouldn’t donate blood, now they test all units that are donated. If they find in there testing that a someone has Chagas Disease, they will contact the person directly to tell them not to donate again, and the bad blood is disposed of”, said Dr. Sharp.

There are 11 different species that have been found in the United States so far. About six of these species are actually known for transmitting Chagas Disease to humans. The Kissing bug is found in many different regions therefore there are many species and circumstances in which they live. Most of these bugs have been found in southern parts of America in places like Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The most common in south-central USA is called Triatoma sanguisuga and Triatoma gerstaeckeri. This disease is commonly found in the immigrant population, Latin American population, and Central American population where .8% of those populations carry the disease.

“It is a group of species. Chagas Disease is distributed throughout America all the way to Argentina. Across the America there are about 118 species of the Kissing Bug that are capable of carrying the parasite. However, the Kissing Bug is epidemic to America, they have been in America way before humans were. The Parasite, vector, and the host (other mammals) have been interacting for thousands of years”, said Orantes.

According to Lucia Orantes, there are only a small amount of these cases found in the Unites States, about 5 to 10 at the most. They have been mainly found in Texas and Louisiana. This disease is becoming a more modernized, but has been around for many years. A lot more of these cases have been found in other places outside of the United States, but it is slowly making its way more North.