From Deep Look.
A kissing bug gorges on your blood. Then it poops on you. And that poop might contain the parasite that causes Chagas disease, which can be deadly. Without knowing it, millions of people have gotten the parasite in Latin America, where these insects live in many rural homes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the saliva of some kissing bugs in the U.S. can give you a dangerous allergic reaction.
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Kissing bugs live in the Americas, where around 130 species feed on humans, wild animals like wood rats, and on dogs, chickens and pigs.
In Latin America, five species of kissing bugs are largely responsible for infecting around 6 million people with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi that causes Chagas disease. The parasite enters people’s bodies when they rub the poop of an infected kissing bug into the bite wound or their eyes.
Most never get sick, but up to one-third develop heart disease that can kill them. Pregnant women can pass the parasite onto their babies.
— What are signs you’ve been bitten by a kissing bug?
The bite is painless and frequently invisible, though it might swell up. Kissing bugs often bite near the eyes or mouth, but they’ll dig in anywhere.
If the bite victim rubs infected bug poop into their eye, it might puff up into the sign of Romaña.
Infection might cause fever, headache, cough, or abdominal pain, according to the Pan American Health Organization.
— What are other names for kissing bugs?
They’re referred to as triatomines and also known as chinche besucona, vinchuca, pito and barbeiro.
— In what countries do people contract Chagas?
Chagas is regularly transmitted in 21 countries in Latin America.
In the U.S., where kissing bugs very rarely transmit Chagas, researchers estimate that some 350,000 Latin American immigrants contracted the parasite in their home countries, where the bugs live inside houses and in animal coops.
— What is the treatment for Chagas?
Two medications can kill the parasite.
“The earlier you treat people, and the younger the person is, the better the chance of preventing development of heart disease,” said Dr. Caryn Bern, at the University of California, San Francisco.
— In what states in the U.S. do kissing bugs live?
Texas, New Mexico and Arizona are the states with the most findings of kissing bugs, according to Texas A&M University.
—+ Find additional resources and a transcript on KQED Science: https://www.kqed.org/science/1977520/how-a-kissing-bug-becomes-a-balloon-full-of-your-blood
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