The kissing bug, which feeds on the face, defecates into the wound and transmits a deadly parasite, has taken a Dallas man’s life, and health officials are now worried.
The deadly disease the bug transmits is known as Chagas. The symptoms of the disease are flu-like and are often misdiagnosed by doctors. The parasite, also known as Trypanosoma cruzi, can go undetected in the human heart, esophagus or colon, and cause organ failures years later.
The man suffered damage to heart tissue, which can develop years after contracting Chagas.
In 2013, there were 19 cases of the disease reported to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The 19 cases are the first ever to be recorded in three decades. Many health officials and researchers believe the number would be higher if the infection wasn’t misdiagnosed.
Researchers are worried that the number of infections will increase due to dogs exposing humans to the parasite.
Christina Mann, a spokeswoman for the health commission, said Texas is monitoring the disease, but has no extensive action plan to stem transmission of Chagas.
According to Peter Jay Hotez, the dean of Baylor University’s National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston, the health commission lacks manpower and needs better resources. He considers Texas and the Gulf Coast region a “high-risk region” for diseases like Chagas.
To read the full article regarding the health commission’s worry about the kissing bug by Wes Martin of the Dallas News, click here.