unnamed (12)Lake Havasu City, AZ – A new disease has found its way into the United States.  Health officials are not calling it an ‘endemic,’ even though it has infected more than ten times the number of Americans than Ebola, but the Chagas disease, also known as the “kissing bug” disease, has already infected thousands of Americans.  The “kissing bugs” normally only seen in Mexico and South America have made their way into Arizona and other parts of the country.  According to a study done by researchers in Tucson, over 40% of the “kissing bugs” collected for the study in Southern Arizona carried with them a single-cell parasite that can cause the Chagas disease.  “Because health officials have not declared Chagas an endemic in the United States, many hospitals and doctors are not thinking to check for this disease,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated.  “If left untreated, this disease could be deadly,” Johnson continued. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in the United States it is estimated that more than 300,000 Americans have been infected with the disease.  Chagas is spread mostly by insects known as Triatominae or kissing bugs.  While these bugs are similar to mosquitos, they typically only bite a person’s face.  After they have bitten and ingested their blood, kissing bugs defecate onto the person.  In order for the person to become infected with the Chagas disease, the feces must enter the body through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin.  This usually occurs when a person accidentally scratches or rubs the feces into the bite wound, eyes, or mouth.  For those with the disease, in the early stages symptoms usually consist of a fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, and body aches.  CDC studies show that 60-70% of those infected never produce any further systems; however, in the other 30-40% deadly symptoms can occur such as cardiac arrest and intestinal complications.  “This disease is being compared to the AIDS virus because some of the chronic symptoms may not occur for 10 to 30 years after the initial infection,” Johnson stated.  CDC reports show that many who have Chagas may not even know they have it. Like Ebola, the virus spread to the U.S. from visitors who had recently been in other countries.  According to the CDC, the disease has not been classified as an endemic in America because the majority of the 300,000 who have the disease are those who have migrated to America or who have illegally come here from Mexico.  Due to illegal immigration, studies have shown the majority of Chagas cases in individuals are from Border States such as Arizona, California and Texas.

According to health officials, there are several ways individuals can help protect their home from these blood sucking bugs.  Some of them include:

  • Breaking up any rats’ nests.  Rat nets are one of the bug’s favorite places to feed.
  • Check under flower pots and seal any cracks along windows or doors.
  • If you do find one, don’t squash it!  Doing so can spread the fluids that contain the disease.  Instead put a cup on top of it and put it into a bag.
  • If you suspect your home has any, you can call a professional exterminator to spray your home with pesticide. This will kill any bugs that currently reside in the home.

For more details on the Chagas disease, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas/gen_info/detailed.html