Connect with us

Life Style

The silent killer ‘kissing bug’ disease that ‘kills the heart slowly’ – symptoms to spot



Insects are known to spread various illnesses to humans with most people aware of diseases such as malaria, Lyme disease and dengue fever.

However, there are other vector-borne diseases that are less well-known – that have the potential to be fatal.

One such illness is Chagas disease, a silent killer disease that “kills the heart very slowly”.

It is typically spread via an insect known as the “kissing bug”.

This bug, called the triatomine bug, bites people around the mouth passing along a parasite.

Mainly found in the Americas, the kissing bug can also be found in parts of Asia and Africa.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it is thought around 300,000 people in the US are currently living with the disease.

However, only around one percent of cases are identified partly due to lack of awareness and testing.

And it is estimated to affect around eight million people in Mexico, Central America and South America.
What causes Chagas disease?

The disease is caused by a parasite, called Trypanosoma cruzi.

This is what is transmitted through the kissing bug to humans.

The bugs defecate on the skin, allowing faeces, which can contain the parasite, to enter a person’s body through either the mouth, nose or breaks in the skin.
Symptoms of Chagas disease

According to the CDC there are two phases of Chagas disease – acute and chronic.

The acute phase occurs immediately after infection and can last months. At this time the parasites can still be found in the blood.

As is also the case with the chronic phase, some people will not experience any symptoms.

However, it can cause:

Body aches
Loss of appetite
Diarrhoea and vomiting.

Since these can be signs of many health conditions they can be mistaken for something else.

But one tell-tale sign is a severe swelling of the eyelid, according to Doctor Shaun Yang, professor of clinical microbiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Most people enter the chronic phase after the acute phase, which can last the rest of their lives.

Around 20 percent of people will develop serious heart or digestive problems such as an enlarged heart, heart failure or cardiac arrest, an enlarged colon or an enlarged oesophagus.

These issues can cause symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or swelling of the legs.

If left untreated the disease “kills the heart very slowly,” Dr Yang said.

Some patients will need to manage their condition with medication but others may need a heart transplant.

Cardiologist and medical director for the Latin American Society of Chagas, Rachel Marcus, warned that there is a “tremendous lack of awareness about this disease” in the US.

As reported in NBC News she said: “We were taught that it is something we don’t see in the United States.”

If you experience symptoms of Chagas disease you should speak to your GP.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *