CDC Warns Tennessee Of Kissing Bug, deadly Chagas Disease

November 24, 2015 |NewsChannel 5

To prevent Kissing Bug  infestation the CDC recommends that you:

  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs and doors
  • Remove wood, brush and rock piles near your house
  • Use screens on doors and windows and repair any holes or tears
  • Seal holes and cracks leading to the attic, crawl spaces below the house, and to the outside
  • Have pets sleep indoors, especially at night
  • Keep your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs
If you suspect you’ve found a kissing bug, the CDC says don’t squash it. Instead, place it in a container and fill with rubbing alcohol or freeze in water and take to your health department.


Deadly Chagas disease in the U.S., affecting people and animals – primarily dogs. Watch out for “kissing bugs”, aka “love bugs”.

November 18, 2015 | by Robert Herriman | Outbreak News Today

Chagas disease, the parasitic infection caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, is found mainly in Latin America, where it is mostly transmitted to humans by the feces of triatomine bugs, known as “kissing bugs”.

The Triatoma or “kissing” bug. Image/CDC

However, in several areas of the United States Chagas is ever present, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, who told me in 2013 the number of cases of Chagas disease in the United States to be somewhere between 300,000 and 1 million. The United States is ranked 7th among nations for the amount of cases.

Texas is definitely one state that is battling the neglected tropical disease. According to Texas health officials:

In Texas, approximately 45% of the collected triatomine bugs have tested positive for T. cruzi, and Chagas is considered an endemic disease in dogs. From 2013 to 2014, 351 cases of Chagas disease in animals, primarily dogs, were reported from approximately 20% of Texas counties, representing all geographic regions of the state. Locally-acquired human cases are uncommon, but some have been reported. From 2013 to 2014, 39 human cases of Chagas disease were reported: 24 were acquired in another country, 12 were locally-acquired, and the location of acquisition was unknown for 3.

Local transmission means that the kissing bugs in Texas are infected with the parasite, causing it to spread to humans.

Chagas disease is transmitted naturally in North, Central, and South America. In parts of Mexico and Central and South America, where Chagas disease is considered highly endemic, it is estimated that approximately 8 million people are infected.

Chagas in Texas/Texas Department of Health

The Triatoma or “kissing” bug frequently carry for life the parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi. T. cruzi is a comma shaped flagellated parasite and the cause of an acute and chronic disease called Chagas.

The triatoma bug can be found in poorly constructed homes, with cracks and crevices in the walls or those with thatch roofs. They can also be found in palm trees and the fronds.

Usually at night while sleeping, the insect feeds on people or other mammals. While feeding the insect defecates and the infected feces gets rubbed into the bite wound, eyes abrasions or other skin wounds.

The parasite invades macrophages at or near the site of entry. Here they transform, multiply and rupture from the cells 4-5 days later and enter the blood stream and tissue spaces.

Initial infection with Chagas is typically asymptomatic. Acute disease may manifest symptoms after a couple of weeks.

Reddening of the skin (Chagoma) or edema around the eye (Romana’s sign) may be seen, albeit uncommon.

Fever, malaise, enlarged liver and spleen are part of the acute syndrome. 10% of people develop acute myocaditis with congestive heart failure. This acute disease can be fatal.

After a latent period which may last for years, the infected person may develop chronic disease (20-40%). The most serious consequences are cardiomyopathy (in certain areas it’s the leading cause of death in men less than 45 years of age) and megacolon/megaesophogus.

Trypanosoma cruzi can also be transmitted via congenital transmission (mother to baby), through blood transfusions and organ transplants, and some cases of transmission through feces contaminated food.

About 150 mammals beside humans may serve as reservoirs of the parasite. Dogs, cats, opossoms and rats are among the animals.

Benznidazole and nifurtimox are 100 percent effective in killing the parasite and curing the disease, but only if given soon after infection at the onset of the acute phase, according to the WHO.

There is no vaccine for Chaga’s, so preventive measures should include insecticide spraying of infested houses.


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. 

Chagas ‘Kissing Bug’ Disease Seriously Underestimated, Underdiagnosed In The U.S

Headlines & Global News

November 05, 2014 | by Rebekah Marcarelli

Chagas disease is caused by the “kissing bug,” which feed on the human face at night.

Chagas disease is believed to be a very real threat in the U.S., but it mostly goes unnoticed.

The disease is caused by a parasite and can lead to severe heart disease and death, Burness Communications reported. The disease is typically spread through the feces of the blood-sucking triatomine bugs, nicknamed “kissing bugs” because they feed on people’s faces at night.

The disease affects between seven and eight million people worldwide and is curable if caught in the early stages. While the disease is primarily found in Mexico, Central America and South America, cases in Texas have been on the rise. Among these cases a high percentage are believed to have been contracted within the borders of the U.S.

“We were astonished to not only find such a high rate of individuals testing positive for Chagas in their blood, but also high rates of heart disease that appear to be Chagas-related,” said Baylor epidemiologist Melissa Nolan Garcia, one of the researchers who presented findings from a series of studies. “We’ve been working with physicians around the state to increase awareness and diagnosis of this important emerging infectious disease.”

 Kissing bugs are found across half of the U.S., and one in every 6,500 Texas blood donors tested positive for exposure to the parasite. These numbers are 50 times higher than the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimated infection rate of one in every 300,000 nationally.

“We think of Chagas disease as a silent killer,” Garcia said. “People don’t normally feel sick, so they don’t seek medical care, but it ultimately ends up causing heart disease in about 30 percent of those who are infected.”

People who test positive for Chagas disease usually go untreated. Out of the 2,000 people who tested positive through the American Association of Blood Banks’ system only 422 doses of medication were administered by the CDC between 2007 and 2013.

“This highlights an enormous treatment gap,” said Jennifer Manne-Goehler, a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, collected data from the CDC and the American Association of Blood Banks. “In some of the areas of the country we know there are a lot of positive blood donors, yet people still don’t get care. We don’t know what happens to them because there is no follow up.”

Some symptoms include fever, fatigue, body aches, and cardiac and intestinal complications.

The findings were presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting.

Nothing has changed…the cure for ‘silent killer’ CHAGAS remains elusive

Harvard School of Public Health

April 30, 2014 | by Karen Feldscher

Barbara Burleigh, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases, studies Chagas disease, a leading cause of infectious heart failure. The disease is a major health and economic burden in Latin America, where it’s endemic, with roughly 8 million people infected and another 100 million individuals at risk of infection, mostly in rural, resource-poor settings.

Have you seen one of these on your deck?
How does Chagas disease cause infectious heart failure, and does it affect many people in the U.S?

Chagas is one of a group of so-called “neglected tropical diseases”—diseases that mainly affect the poorest countries and that have typically been overlooked because of the world’s focus on the “big three” diseases with the highest mortality rates: HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.In people with Chagas disease, it takes decades after the initial infection for severe symptoms to appear—which is why the disease is sometimes referred to as “the silent killer.” Symptoms include heart failure as well as severe swelling of the esophagus and/or colon, which greatly interferes with digestion. Chagas appears in people chronically infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, typically transmitted via contact with the feces of a blood-sucking insect called the triatomine, or “kissing bug.” Although triatomine bugs are found in the U.S.—mostly in the southern half of the country—people here have rarely been infected through bug bites, because the bugs thrive mainly in cracks and holes in houses made of mud or adobe or thatch—the kind of housing you’ll find in poorer countries. So, in the U.S., Chagas infections come mostly from infected blood or from mother-to-baby transmission, and are on the rise because of new immigration from Latin America. About 300,000 are infected in the U.S., and it’s estimated that Chagas-related health care costs top $100 million annually. While insect control measures in Latin America and donor blood screening both there and in the U.S. have helped lower the incidence of new cases of Chagas disease, more needs to be done. There’s no vaccine for the disease and the two Chagas drugs available—nifurtimox and benznidazole—can provide a cure only if taken very soon after the initial infection. That means that costs will continue to rise for those with Chagas disease, who are often infected as children, develop heart failure at relatively young ages (40s and 50s), and who may require extensive cardiac care, including heart transplants.

What sparked your interest in studying this “neglected” disease?

Since I was a graduate student, I have gravitated toward parasitic diseases that impact populations in the developing world. It is the fascinating biology of the Chagas disease parasite, T. cruzi, that attracted me initially, but the fact that this is a neglected disease afflicting millions motivates me to find ways to combat it. There is still so much to learn about how this pathogen establishes and maintains infection that persists for decades, and about the cellular and metabolic processes involved. Gaining insights into these processes at the molecular level will have significant implications for the understanding and treatment of chronic Chagas disease.

How close do you think we are to finding an effective way to combat this disease?

It’s hard to say. For a long time, Chagas was neglected because pharmaceutical companies don’t see poverty-stricken populations as a market. Now, with increased emphasis on developing drugs to combat neglected tropical diseases—supported by the U.S. government, the World Health Organization, and other nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits—the Chagas disease agenda has gained traction. While some new compounds look promising, recent clinical trials in humans have been disappointing. These failures suggest a complexity associated with persistent human infection that we do not understand. It’s possible that the parasite is able to adapt in order to avoid harm from the medications being used. By studying this possibility at the molecular level, we might be able to pinpoint the mechanisms at play in Chagas disease—which could lead to the development of more effective drugs to fight it.

Finally – news networks acknowledge deadly Chagas disease as public health risk

HOUSTON….we have a problem!

An infectious disease called Chagas is making a comeback.

A bug called “the kissing bug” carries a parasite that attacks your heart. Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn specializes in infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine.

“It stays dormant for about fifteen to thirty years,” Woc-Colburn said, “And then you start having congestive heart failure.”

The bugs are slightly smaller than cockroaches and resemble ticks. They live mainly in tree bark and come out to feed on humans and animals at night. Humans are usually bitten around the face and neck – hence the nickname, the kissing bug. The scientific name – triatoma infestans.

“When you have a bite, you usually scratch, and when you scratch, you get the stuff that the bug defecated into your arm,” Woc-Colburn said, “And that’s how the little parasite that looks like an ‘s’ gets into you.”

Woc-Colburn said in Latin America, Chagas affects more than 30 million people. The disease first appeared in Texas in the 1800s but has not resurfaced until recently.

So far, the Harris County Health Department has confirmed seven cases of Chagas. Dogs have died from the disease, too.

Woc-Colburn advises anyone spending lots of time outdoors to be on the lookout for kissing bugs. Most people experience flu-like symptoms after being bitten. A doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine if a patient has contracted Chagas.