Health

Thousands of Americans Are Living With Deadly Bug Disease

| by Sheena Vasani
Triatomine Bug.Triatomine Bug.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deadly Triatomine bugs — commonly known as "Kissing Bugs" — have been discovered in North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. 

The bugs can carry a parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes the deadly Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis. 

Around 300,000 Americans are living with the disease, The Huffington Post reports.

Symptoms are difficult to identify at first. Swelling of the eyelids or skin lesions may appear, but are not common. Over the first few months, the World Health Organization notes individuals can suffer "fever, headache, enlarged lymph glands, pallor, muscle pain, difficulty in breathing, swelling and abdominal or chest pain."

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Left untreated, it can cause heart failure or even death. 

The CDC says the disease is typically spread by coming into contact with the feces of infected bugs. 

"The bug generally defecates on or near a person while it is feeding on his or her blood, generally when the person is sleeping. Transmission occurs when fecal material gets rubbed into the bite wound or into a mucous membrane (for example, the eye or mouth), and the parasite enters the body."

The disease can be also spread to a fetus during pregnancy, through organ transplants and blood transfusions if the mother or the donor is infected, reports The Huffington Post.

Triatomine bugs can be found in cracks and holes indoors, so the CDC advises sealing up any gaps — particularly those near windows, doors, walls and roofs. They can also be found in outdoor dog houses or chicken coops, so it is recommended to keep pets indoors at night. 

Other common areas harboring these pests include nightstands, under mattresses, on porches and near areas of rodent infestation.  

While the bug has been found in the U.S., many of the 300,000 Americans living with the disease contracted it from South and Central America, notes The Huffington Post.

The CDC warns pesticides do not usually work on these bugs. If you see one, it is recommended you capture it in a jar and add rubbing alcohol, or freeze it. Alternatively, take it to your local extension service, health department or a university laboratory for identification.

 Sources: The Huffington PostKMOVCDC / Photo credit: CDC via The Huffington Post