"Kissing Bugs" Spread Chagas

Chagas is a disease affecting 6-7 million people, mostly in Latin America. Its long term complications affect the heart, and it is thought to be the leading cause of cardiomyopathy amongst young Latin Americans.

The infection is spread by a parasite in the feces of the reduviid bug (also known as the "kissing bug"), which feeds by a bite on exposed skin, often the face, at night. It leaves feces near the bite, and when one instinctively rubs the area they unintentionally move the parasite from the feces into the bite.

The infection has an acute phase which lasts for about 2 months, and may present with a visible skin lesion or swelling of one eyelid. Can also include headache, swollen lymph nodes, pallor, muscle pain, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

The chronic phase can lead to heart failure or sudden death as the parasite progressively damages the body.

This bug is found in the ceiling of mud or thatch housing. Sleeping in a mosquito net is an advisable precaution if one must stay in such an abode.

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