Much has been made of the Chagas disease, which many are calling the new AIDS virus to hit America. The disease is spread by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which multiplies within cells of the body, infecting said cells and releasing parasites into the bloodstream.
The Trypanosoma cruzi parasite belongs to the family of blood-sucking insects known as the triatomes and they usually go by kissing bugs, assassin bugs, cone-nosed bugs, and reduviid bugs.
Where are they from?
Originating in Central and South America, many cases are beginning to pop up in Southern states, but many have been found as far north as Pennsylvania in the East and Northern California in the West.
How many are there?
There are at least 11 different species of the blood-sucking bug.
So where can you find these blood suckers?
Commonly they are located inside houses near pet resting areas, in areas infested by rodents, and in or around beds sometimes under mattresses or bedside tables.
What’s their scheduled?
The freaks only come out night and feed on the blood of humans and other mammals, birds, and reptiles. The bugs are attracted to the lips, which is why they have the nickname "kissing bug," but be aware, bites may occur on other parts of the body.
What if I get bit?
The bug bite itself doesn't spread Chagas parasites. But while feeding, bug droppings are left near the wound. When these droppings get into the wound or mucous membranes, as when a person touches the droppings and then rubs his or her eye, the parasites enter the body.
How do I get treated?
Get treatment early, the earlier the better, as the disease can be cleared in most children and in about 80 percent of adults if caught fast enough. However, treatment does not totally eliminate the parasite, but it can greatly reduce the odds of severe chronic disease.
There are only two drugs used to treat Chagas disease: nifurtimox and benznidazole. Neither of these drugs is approved by the FDA and, in the U.S., must be obtained by doctors through the Center for Disease Control.
Both drugs used to treat the disease are in short supply and even when they are available the cost can be as high as $1,000 or more.
Treatment must continue for 60 to 90 days.
According to WebMd, more than 9 million people worldwide have Chagas disease, with about 20 to 40 percent suffering from chronic disease.
The blood sucking Trypanosoma cruzi bug is something we have to keep an eye out for as we enter the summer.