the Kiss of Death

Kind of a criptic, mysterious title but the threat can be a very serious one that we should at least be wary of. 
Kissing bugs may also be called "bloodsuckers, "conenose bugs", assassin bugs, or "vinchuca"
I heard of Chagas disease a few years back and read that it was caused by a bug, (Chagas bug) that bites its victim usually on the face; hence it inherited the name, kissing bug.  Earlier this week a medical journal published an editorial expressing new concerns about the tropical disease called Chagas.  CNN reported that the beetle-like bug sucks blood from its victim at the same time depositing a parasite at the bite.  Upon scratching the site, the parasite moves into the wound and you’re infected.  This current editorial by the Public Library of Sciences Neglected TropicalDiseases has called Chagas, “the new Aids of the Americas.” 

How Similar to AIDS?

It’s gotten this infamous title for a few reasons.  First, it’s grown from a tropical area disease to affecting a much larger area (including the US) in a small amount of time.  This is attributed mostly to the increase in travel and immigration from tropical areas to the US.  More than 8 million people have been infected by Chagas, most of them in Latin and Central America. But more than 300,000 live in the United States. Chagas, also known as American trypanosomiasis, kills about 20,000 people per year, the journal said. Second, the disease more often affects those in poverty stricken areas where the victims have little or no access to health care facilities.  Third, Chagas is similar to AIDS in that they are both chronic conditions that require long-term, expensive treatment.  Lastly, they are similar in that the symptoms are often dormant for a long time making it difficult to detect or diagnose and often being confused with other conditions.

How has the disease become so viral? 

Besides the Chagas bug becoming more prevalent, notice this report from the NY Times: 

The disease can be transmitted from mother to child or by blood transfusion. About a quarter of its victims eventually will develop enlarged hearts or intestines, which can fail or burst, causing sudden death. Treatment involves harsh drugs taken for up to three months and works only if the disease is caught early.
However, doctors have found that once the heart symptoms start, the medicines no longer work well.  On top of that the medicines are very toxic and have many other risks.  Its large scale increase can be partially attributed to the fact that the blood supplies and transplanted organs in the US are not screened for Chagas even though more than 300,000 in the US are reported to have it.  It could even be worse than this shows because once the disease affect s the heart, a patient is not tested for Chagas so it is expected that many heart attacks are caused by the disease and it goes undiagnosed.  The disease destroys the heart muscle and may also target the esophagus, colon and brain. 

When I first heard of this condition and the infamous “assassin bug” I pretty much discounted it as a tropical disease, as it may have been at one time.  But in the last couple weeks I’ve read several articles about its spread to the US and have had personal reports from Texans who have lost pets to this kissing bug.  So especially for those of us who love the outdoors, camping, RVing and hiking, this threat is one we need to keep on top of.  Spraying or dusting our site areas is something we plan on doing but we suggest that individuals take responsibility by using precaution when spending time in the outdoors. 

Teri Blaschke is the RV Park operator of family owned HiddenValley RV Park in San Antonio, TX and writer of the park blog “A Little Piece of Country in San Antonio.” Teri contributes to various other blogs with a focus on either travel or social media and how it relates to the outdoor hospitality industry but her passion is serving the RV travel community by providing a memorable RV camping experience and growing the Hidden Valley RV family.  Connect with , Facebook and Twitter@HiddenValleyRV
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