DALLAS — Texas health officials say “kissing bugs” have infected at least 12 people with a parasite that has the potential to kill.
“I’ve never left the United States. I’ve never even been on a cruise,” a woman told KXAS.
“I was infected right here in Texas.”
Kissing bugs get their nickname because they favor biting human faces and lips at night. The parasite they leave behind causes Chagas disease. The bugs and parasite are usually only found in the tropics.
The disease has an acute phase much like the flu to start. Then it transitions into a chronic phase, during which up to 30 percent of people develop heart problems and 10 percent develop gastrointestinal issues.
In rare cases, Chagas disease can end in death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 8 million people in Mexico and Central and South America are infected with Chagas disease, yet most don’t even know it.
There’s no approved treatment for the disease. The CDC only has experimental drugs, which reportedly can be up to 85 percent effective, but they have to be taken soon after a person is infected.
Most counties in Texas have reported kissing bug sightings. (Video via KXAS)
KXAS reports the rise in infections is likely due to the growth of suburbs on land infested with the bugs rather than the bugs coming into the state.