Chagas disease, which is also known as American Trypanosomiasis, is an infectious disease that is transmitted by kissing bugs, who despite their shared need for a blood meal are not associated with the more well-known bedbug. This disease is common in Latin America, and is caused by the protozoa Trypanosomacruzi. While not a common occurrence, the illness has shown up in the United States, and most instances were traced to Latin American immigrants.
How It’s Spread
Those infected with Chagas disease carry the protozoa in their bloodstream, which means anyone who comes in contact with their blood has a much higher risk of contracting the illness. There is also a strain of the disease found in animals, including squirrels, rodents, armadillos, raccoons, opossums, and even dogs and other domestic animals. However, people are not at risk for contracting Chagas from pets. Instead, it is transmitted to humans by coming in contact with the feces of the kissing bug.
In 2006, the sixth human case to be found in the United States, and the first in Louisiana, was discovered by a resident who contacted a pest control specialist due to an infestation of bugs. Once the bugs were identified as being kissing bugs, the resident contacted an expert on the disease. After researching the problem and subsequent testing, one of the two people living in the home tested positive for Chagas antibodies. The insects found in the home were tested, where it was determined that many of them carried the Trypanosomacruzi protozoa.
This initial report of the disease was not considered a major health threat due to the rural location, and the home. The home did not have air conditioning, and provided numerous open points that allowed the bugs to enter the home. It was determined that this was not a threat, as it was contained only to the area of the home and another building that was in close proximity.
Another case of a person having the Chagas antibodies was reported in Louisiana in 2011. In this case, the home did not have multiple entry points for kissing bugs, and there were air conditioning and heating systems that were working properly in the home. Additionally, this person was not exposed to the disease due to travels out of the country, although there was a history of camping.
While both of these cases were reported, they were not actual manifestations of the disease. Both people had Chagas antibodies, which meant that they had been exposed to the disease, but had not contracted it. In fact, the Department of Health and Hospitals has not had any reports of domestically transmitted Chagas disease with manifestations in ten years.
Due to the endemic nature of the disease, new screening programs that test donated blood for Chagas are being used more frequently. While there have been some individuals identified as having serological evidence for domestic exposure, it is not taken as a threat of an outbreak in the US. Officials believe that the cases are only being discovered due to the screenings being done, rather than to an actual problem.
These screenings are being used more frequently due to the growing number of immigrants from countries where the disease is prevalent. The increase in the number of immigrants, many of whom donate blood or organs, do have the potential to threaten the blood supply in America. However, with the growing, widespread use of screening, any potential problems will be caught and addressed before it can become an issue.
While Chagas disease is prevalent in Latin America, there are rarely any cases reported in the US that occur in those that have not been out of the country. As long as screenings continue, they will ensure that Chagas disease does not become a major issue in the United States.
If you feel your home may be hosting kissing bugs, or any other insect, let the pest professionals at Dugas Pest Control assist you in removing these nuisances. Call us today at (888) 606-9282 to schedule an inspection or get a free estimate.