For the past decade, researchers in the United States have warned lawmakers about the importance of taking political action to prevent tropical insect-borne diseases from entering the country from South America, Mexico and the Carribean islands. A variety of factors, such as climate change and increased immigration into the US, are contributing to the northward expansion of tropical insect-borne diseases. These tropical insect-borne diseases include the Zika virus, West Nile virus, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, and perhaps most alarming, chagas disease. Chagas is spread by several species of kissing bugs, and the past two decades have seen the annual rate of chagas infection increase in the southern states, particularly Louisiana. Currently, around 300,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with chagas disease, but most of these people contracted the disease while visiting the tropics. Multiple kissing bug species in Louisiana carry the parasite that causes chagas disease, and 60 percent of all kissing bugs captured in New Orleans have tested positive for the parasite.
Only 13 cases of chagas disease have occured within Louisiana, and 12 of these cases were asymptomatic, and 8 were proven to have been transmitted to humans within the state. This may seem like a low number, but public health officials and blood donation centers have only recently started screening Americans for chagas disease. According to officials with the Louisiana Department Health, a Louisiana resident has a 1 in 400 chance of contracting chagas disease, and bites are most likely to occur indoors. The parasite attacks the nervous system of dogs in much the same manner as it attacks the human nervous system, but since dogs live relatively shorter lifespans, the rate of chagas fatalities is higher in dogs than it is in humans. Around 10 dogs die in Louisiana each year due to complications caused by chagas disease. The parasite that causes chagas disease, T. cruzi, is found within kissing bug feces. Kissing bugs defecate onto skin after biting humans. While itching these bites, humans unknowingly spread the parasite-riddled feces into bite wounds, allowing the parasite to attack the human body.
Do you worry about kissing bug bites in your neighborhood?
Tags: pest control