Pet Owners Should Be Aware Of ‘Kissing Bugs,’ With Deadly Bites

By Barbara Diamond |LittleThings.com

Did you know?

Hundreds of dogs have died from something called Chagas Disease, and there are many cases that have yet to be diagnosed and reported. In Texas alone, it’s estimated that the insects that transmit the awful disease are infected at a rate of 17 to 48 percent.

Chagas Disease is a very serious illness caused by a parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi, or the “kissing bug.” Animals that live in South and Central America are particularly at risk of contracting Chagas, though we’ve started to see more cases in the southern United States. Since Chagas Disease is relatively new to the U.S. — and its initial symptoms can mimic those of other infections — it’s not uncommon for veterinarians to initially misdiagnose the disease. The telltale sign, however, is heart failure, inflammation of the heart, and/or other heart problems.

Read on so that you and your family can be prepared:

In 2014, a slew of dogs in Texas were falling over and dying, seemingly without reason. Veterinarians were stunned to discover it was Chagas Disease, caused by a parasite known as the “kissing bug.” The disease has been a major human health issue in Central and South America, but has begun to pop up in the southern United States — threatening the canine population.
In 2014, a slew of dogs in Texas were falling over and dying, seemingly without reason. Veterinarians were stunned to discover it was Chagas Disease, caused by a parasite known as the "kissing bug." The disease has been a major human health issue in Central and South America, but has begun to pop up in the southern United States — threatening the canine population.

University of Florida

After being bitten by a kissing bug in Texas, Kiska was nearly on her deathbed; her heart was giving out. Since there is no cure, Kiska now lives with a pacemaker.

After being bitten by a kissing bug in Texas, Kiska was nearly on her deathbed; her heart was giving out. Since there is no cure, Kiska now lives with a pacemaker.

Kissing bugs like to feed at night. Buddy and his dad learned this firsthand when, during an evening walk, Buddy suddenly collapsed. Tests revealed Buddy had contracted Chagas Disease. Dogs can be infected either by eating the bug or when the bug bites and passes fecal matter into the wound.

Kissing bugs like to feed at night. Buddy and his dad learned this firsthand when, during an evening walk, Buddy suddenly collapsed. Tests revealed Buddy had contracted Chagas Disease. Dogs can be infected either by eating the bug or when the bug bites and passes fecal matter into the wound.

Kissing bugs are also known to bite humans, but Chagas Disease cannot be passed from dogs to humans. Young children or people with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Shortly after being bitten, acute symptoms of Chagas Disease may be swelling and/or redness at the skin infection site, rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever and nausea.

Kissing bugs are also known to bite humans, but Chagas Disease cannot be passed from dogs to humans. Young children or people with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Shortly after being bitten, acute symptoms of Chagas Disease may be swelling and/or redness at the skin infection site, rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever and nausea.

 If you live in an area prone to kissing bugs and notice your pet exhibiting these signs (or any strange behavior), schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

If you live in an area prone to kissing bugs and notice your pet exhibiting these signs (or any strange behavior), schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Chagas Disease and your Dog; Breeders, Threat is Real

Show_Dog.jpg

If done properly, kisses aren’t often considered deadly.

Just don’t try it on a kissing bug.

Chagas Disease is a tropical disease spread by kissing bugs carrying the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite. These bugs are so called because they usually bite victims around the mouth during the night.

The insects then transfer the parasite to their host, either through defecating at the bite site or infecting mucus membranes. It may take weeks or longer for symptoms to appear, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

A 2014 CBS 11 news report on kissing bugs lead to viewers throughout North Texas reporting sightings of the bugs. Reports came in from cities including Arlington, Fort Worth, Grapevine, Keller and Grand Prairie.

Perhaps the most recognizable human symptom is swelling of the eyelid on the side of the infection site — something called the Romana sign, epidemiology professor Susan Cherry said.

However, almost all other symptoms are vague, including fever, fatigue, body aches, headaches and swelling of the infection site.

There is no treatment for Chagas Disease. Blood donations are usually tested for tropical diseases, but with blood screening not required, most people don’t know they have it until they are contacted by testing labs.

It was the threat to dogs that caught Cherry’s attention.

Cherry breeds West Highland Terriers and believes the death of one of her dogs last year was because of Chagas.

“I had her put to sleep,” she said.

Cherry’s lectures include units on insect-borne illnesses, but Chagas was not one of them.

After NBC 5 reported on the disease in November, Cherry started researching Chagas and discussing it with her students.

In 2014, Texas A&M University released a study through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reporting 1-in-10 shelter dogs in Texas tested positive for Chagas Disease.

The report also states that 8 million people across Mexico, Central and South America have been affected by the illness.

Integrative biology professor Sahotra Sharkar of UT-Austin published a study in 2010 on the spread of Chagas Disease.

When he began studying Chagas 15 years ago, Sharkar said he knew it was a matter of time before it was discovered in the United States.

“I realized that in Texas, there was quite likely a lot of Chagas that was not being recognized,” he said.

His research involved trapping kissing bugs with the help of UV light and carbon dioxide. They then stored the bugs in alcohol and extracted the parasite responsible for the disease.

Reports of Chagas cases in North and Central Texas have not surprised Sharkar. He said Chagas has only now been discussed because it became reportable in 2013.

This means state and federal law requires doctors and labs to report all diagnoses. This is usually because the illness poses a great public health risk.

History junior David Edwards was surprised there is no treatment for the infection.

Edwards believes America’s status as a superpower ensures Americans will be among the first patients treated once a cure is discovered.

“I feel like we would make it first,” he said.

Another possible source of infection is contaminated meat.

“Oral transmission of Chagas is very, very common,” Sharkar said.

Once ingested, Cherry said cases in southern regions have shown patients lose their ability to eat.

“They are trying to treat it with antiparasitics,” Cherry said of recent diagnoses. “From what I understand, it can manage some of the symptoms, but it doesn’t kill the parasite.”

Sharkar said the public should be vigilant in taking preventative measures against kissing bugs. Such measures include making sure houses or tents are insect-proof and having blood screenings.

Cherry said she encourages her nursing students to listen to the news and share their medical knowledge with loved ones.

Spreading knowledge is something Cherry said is a nurse’s obligation to society.

“You can’t just hold this knowledge in, you’ve got to scare the heck out of people,” she said, laughing.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

 

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