‘Kissing bug’ defecates in face, kills heart muscle — found near NJ
An insect that carries a dangerous parasitic illness has been confirmed in another state neighboring New Jersey.
Chagas disease, which has been diagnosed in 300,000 people in at least 30 states, is spread by the triatomine insect, known as the "kissing bug." It had spread to Pennsylvania as of last summer. Now, The CDC has confirmed that the insect also was found in Delaware, dating back to July 2018.
In a release just this month, the CDC confirmed a family that lives near a heavily wooded area of that state requested help from officials, after noticing a bite on their daughter's face last summer.
The girl did not become ill, but the bug was positively identified as a kissing bug.
“What they tend to do is they like to go for the face, hence the name kissing bug, and they will bite you on the face or around the eye,” Dr. Ted Louie, an infectious disease expert with the Medical Society of New Jersey, previously told New Jersey 101.5.
Chagas disease can cause serious cardiac and gastrointestinal complications. The parasite that carries it is actually spread through the feces of the kissing bug, which may be rubbed into the wound that is caused by the insect's bite.
“Oftentimes, one of the classic signs is that you get swelling above your eye, and then there’s an acute illness, which is fever and muscle aches," Louie said.
Other early symptoms can include fatigues, a rash and headache.
Dr. Rachana Kulkarni, a New Jersey cardiologist with the American Heart Association, said many people who may get Chagas don’t experience symptoms until years later.
“The most common conditions are cardiomyopathy, which is the heart kind of gets ballooned, and then the parasite starts killing the heart muscle and it leads to heart failure.”
She said the parasite will start replacing the heart muscle with scar tissue and this can lead to an aneurysm. Patients can have irregular and sometimes fatal heart rhythms.
“We need to instill screening processes, and clinicians and physicians need to be aware of this so it can be treated properly," Kulkarni said.
Louie said if you live in a modern house or apartment, the chances of getting Chagas are slim, but if you spend time in more rural areas or if you go camping, the risk increases.
He said if you suspect you might have been bitten by a kissing bug you should seek medical help as soon as possible because different anti-parasitic medications have been shown to have a good success rate.
The CDC estimates that the large majority of those with Chagas disease in the United States were infected in the parts of Central and South America where the disease typically is found.
Not all triatomine bugs are infected with the parasite.
CDC officials also said the likelihood of human infection from contact in the U.S. is low, even when the bug is infected.
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