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How A New Orleans Woman Contracted Chagas Disease Within Her Home From Kissing Bug Invaders That Had Been Carrying A Deadly Parasite

For many decades, and even centuries, thousands of people living in South America and Mexico have been falling victim to chagas disease. This disease sees a parasite inflict damage to the heart and other internal organs for years until victims eventually die from organ failure or cardiac issues. The parasites are spread by airborne insects commonly known as kissing bugs, which are pests that habitually invade homes and inflict bites to sleeping humans in order to collect blood meals. Immediately after these insects use their mouthparts to collect human blood, they defecate near the bite wound. As a result of itching the bites, victims inadvertently smear the parasite-contaminated feces into the wound, causing parasites to enter the bloodstream.

Chagas disease causes 12,000 reported deaths annually in the Americans, and more than 300,000 latino immigrants in the US are infected, but as it happens, parasite-carrying kissing bugs are abundant in the southern US states as well, including several species in Louisiana. In fact, the last reported case of chagas disease to be contracted in the US involved a New Orleans woman. If this is not frightening enough, public health experts have good reason to believe that chagas-spreading kissing bugs are becoming more prevalent in Louisiana and other southern states.

The parasite species spread by kissing bugs is known as T. cruzi, and after contracting this parasite in her home while sleeping, the above mentioned woman woke up in the morning to find her body covered in more than 50 bites. Her walls and nightgown were covered in kissing bug feces, and 20 dead kissing bugs were found in the woman’s home and in an adjacent structure on her property. Half of the specimens found in the home tested positive for the T. cruzi parasite. Not a single egg or nymph was found within the home, which indicates that the bugs had been absent from the home until the night she sustained the bites. Although her home was not even 30 years old, pest control professionals found many cracks and crevices on the exterior walls where the bugs likely invaded the structure. One year later, 49 more infected kissing bugs were found in the same home where eight people sustained bites.

This last case of chagas transmission in the US occurred in 2006, but experts have found that an increasing proportion kissing bugs in urban and suburban areas in the southern states are carrying the parasite. Recent research has revealed that around half of the specimens within US kissing bug populations carry T. cruzi. In order to prevent kissing bugs from invading your home and inflicting bites, all exterior entry points should be sealed, and if the bugs are found indoors, a home inspection should be carried out by a licensed pest control professional.

Have you ever found fecal stains that insect pests had smeared on surfaces within your home?

 

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