Kissing bugs can give kiss of death

December 18, 2015 | Big Country Home

(AUSTIN, TX) – Kissing bugs continue to creep across the state and experts say the threat these insects can carry may be worse than expected. 

 “I am really amazed to read that 64% of them have Trypanosoma cruzi,” said Nancy Moran, a professor of Integrative Biology at University of Texas-Austin.

Trypanosoma cruzi is a parasite that can lead to Chagas disease, a potentially deadly disease that can cause heart failure.

In response to the report that 64 percent of kissing bugs carry the parasite, Moran said, “It suggests that a lot of Texans could be afflicted with Chagas disease possibly without being properly diagnosed.”

In humans, the infection can start with flu-like symptoms–fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting–but the infection can also stay silent for decades. Heart and intestinal complications can surface years after a person is infected, or not at all.

“We’ve tested a few dogs that we may have been suspicious of,” said veterinarian, Dr. Amber Breclaw.

“It is a scary prospect that yes these bugs can bite your animal and cause a disease that leads to heart failure,” Breclaw said.

“experts say the threat these insects can carry may be worse than expected.”

In Texas, the kissing bugs are most commonly found in the southern part of the state. Indigenous to Latin America, the threat kissing bugs pose is fairly new to Texas, but it’s a threat that continues to spread.

In dogs, the infection can be a little more difficult to spot. Symptoms start with a loss of energy and a decrease in appetite and if the infection is not caught early, there is no treatment to save the animal.

Blood tests are the only way to confirm if a person or pet has been infected.

Breclaw and Moran said they don’t want people to panic, but it us important for Texans to be aware that kissing bugs are out there.

The nocturnal insects are most active at night and typically live beneath porches, between rocks, under cement and brush piles.

To best protect yourself and your pets, keep dogs inside at night.

If you think your or your animal has been bit by a kissing bug, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

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