Triatominae, also known as kissing bugs, conenose bugs, assassin bugs, whatever you call them, these are nasty creatures, they are about the size of the end of your thumb, have a huge biting snout, fly around at night and suck blood. If that isn’t bad enough, they spread a parasite that causes Chagas disease. I’ve heard it referred to as the “AIDS of the Americas”.
Feeling creeped out yet? This is an insect that lives in south USA, Mexico, South America and a few other places. Last year we had a pretty good invasion of them, we often see them on the window screen after dark, after we have been in bed a while, fortunately most of them are on the outside, but they are looking for a way in. When I saw the first one and found out what it was, then I found out about Chagas, I was really freaked out about it. It would seem that Texas doesn’t report cases of Chagas to the CDC, so there is no way of knowing if it’s prevalent in my area.
I did ask several different doctors and nurses (at different local offices) if they had seen, heard of or treated any cases of Chagas locally, they all told me no, that is some comfort. Still, the insects are even worse this summer. We have been killing one or more of them each night, last night I killed 2 on the screen right behind my head, PB killed one in the house, and tonight I found one on the front porch, it had come out of its hiding spot and had begun moving around for the evening, I just happened to be going out the door when I spotted it, PB dispatched that one too.
Chagas, I think of it in the same vein as lyme disease, something you don’t want to get. It’s caused by a parasite that wreaks havoc in your heart and digestive system over a period of years.
The symptoms of Chagas disease vary over the course of an infection. In the early, acute stage, symptoms are mild and usually produce no more than local swelling at the site of infection. The initial acute phase is responsive to antiparasitic treatments, with 60–90% cure rates. After 4–8 weeks, individuals with active infections enter the chronic phase of Chagas disease that is asymptomatic for 60–80% of chronically infected individuals through their lifetime.
The antiparasitic treatments also appear to delay or prevent the development of disease symptoms during the chronic phase of the disease, but 20–40% of chronically infected individuals will still eventually develop life-threatening heart and digestive system disorders. The currently available antiparasitic treatments for Chagas disease are benznidazole and nifurtimox, which can cause temporary side effects in many patients including skin disorders, brain toxicity, and digestive system irritation… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chagas_disease
I’m still trying to determine how to know if I’ve been exposed, it would seem that it’s not that likely, but that still doesn’t comfort me when I wake up with 5 bites on my forehead that I’m pretty sure came from a kissing bug. One sign of it is a swollen eye, called Romaña’s sign, it occurs to the eye closest to the bite, I have not had that so I’m fairly certain I’m OK. More signs are fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting, none of which I have had… and if this disease were in this area, I’m sure I would have heard something about it. I can’t go to the doctor every time I have a bite to see if I have Chagas… especially if I’m not 100% certain the bites came from the kissing bug… I haven’t heard of or read about any tests that can discover this disease in the early stages anyhow, and the treatment for it, doesn’t sound like something you’d want to take prophylactically.
So I suppose for now, all I can do is keep vigilant, keep looking for them and killing them as I find them, so far there have been more outside (on the window screens trying to get in) than inside, and tighten up the sky castle as much as possible.
PS, it’s a few hours after posting this, just had one drop on my head, after slapping it off my head and off my shoulder (and doing the “oh sh*t” dance), PB quickly came to my rescue and captured the little devil, it must have just come through the window behind the couch where I’m sitting with my computer. It took every bit of self control I possess to not toss my laptop on the floor while this was going on… I’ll try to snag a picture of it tomorrow and add it here.
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