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kissing bug
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The newest kissing disease comes from a bug

The ‘kissing bug’ has made its way into Texas and doesn’t seem to have a problem giving “kisses” to everyone.

The ‘kissing bug,’ which is originally from Latin America, has found its way to Texas and has infected about 300,000 people in the lower part of the U.S.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the parasite that tends to feed on people’s faces carries a parasitic infection called Chagas.  Melissa Garcia, a Baylor College of Medicine research associate, commented on the parasite and the infection it is spreading:

I think we are likely under-diagnosing and mismanaging a lot of Houstonians and a lot of Texas residents with this disease. So it really is imperative that we start screening people that are at high risk … If you don’t get treatment it can progress and it can be fatal.

Garcia, in a conference call with Local 2 via Skype, also stated that she believes people may be transmitting Chagas by blood transfusion since many who are carriers of the infection are unaware that they even have it.

Many who have Chagas can be misdiagnosed since the symptoms are common with other infections, such as swelling.  If doctors haven’t traveled to Latin American countries, they may not know what to look for when diagnosing the disease or even consider it a possibility.  Garcia expressed how she feels physicians need to be more aware of the infection and know what to look for when diagnosing patients.

The true danger with Chagas is that 30 percent of those who develop the infection also develop heart disease.  Garcia suggests that because this is such an issue, there needs to be more blood screenings.

The cure for Chagas is available, but is in short supply and not approved by the FDA.  If a doctor were to diagnose one with the infection, the doctor would have to go directly to the CDC for the vaccine.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine are currently trying to begin a screening on people with heart disease to see if Chagas is related to it.

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