Doom and Bloom: Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease

The Altons at Doom and Bloom Medical have up an article on Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease. While I was aware of Chagas Disease and its insect spreader from my wife’s time living in Bolivia, I was unaware that the beetle and disease were now present in the US. People can live with Chagas for many years and only start having problems from it later in life.

Triatoma Sanguisuga
Kissing Bugs transmit Chagas Disease

Recently, my good friend Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast asked me to produce a special report on Kissing Bugs. No, not kissing bugs, as in how to kiss bugs; I mean THE kissing bug, an invasive species from south of the border that is now found as far north as Pennsylvania and Illinois.

The insect in question is Triatoma sanguisuga. It’s called the kissing bug because it tends to bite human and animal victims around the mouth, although sometimes it might target the eyes or other mucous membranes.

Romana's Sign
Romana’s sign in Chagas Disease

It’s bad enough to have to deal with the redness, itching, and swelling that goes along with insect bites, but there’s more: When the kissing bug sucks your blood, it defecates (poops) on your skin. irritated victims tend to rub the poop into the bite wound while scratching the itchy areas. In kids, a swollen eyelid on one side, also called “Romana’s sign”, is a possible sign of infection.

Even worse, In the excrement lives a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi that lodges itself in heart, intestine, and elsewhere and causes something called Chagas disease. Most people only experience minor symptoms. But a percentage of victims may develop:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Enlargement of the liver or spleen
  • An increased chance of having a stroke
  • An enlarged heart
  • Irregular heartbeats that can be fatal
Heart damage in Chagas Disease

Chagas disease is not transmitted from person-to-person or through casual contact with infected people or animals. It can be spread, however, by infected blood products or from mother to baby during pregnancy. Rarely, an extreme allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis can occur…

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