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Forget Ebola: Deadly kiss of the kissing bug is what you should worry about right now

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It appears that there's a new disease that Americans should be aware and cautious of other than Ebola. A new disease transmitted by the insect known as Triatomine, or kissing bug, that feeds on human faces at night, had been identified as a new health threat in the U.S.

The Chagas disease commonly occurs in Central America, South America and Mexico but researchers have found evidence that the parasitic infection has become increasingly prevalent in the U.S particularly in Texas.

The infection is transmitted when the blood-sucking kissing bug defecate on its victim leaving its feces that contains the Chagas-causing parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which enter the body through small cuts on the skin.

Melissa Nolan Garcia, from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who led two studies on Chagas disease, said that she and her colleagues have found new evidence of locally acquired human transmission in Texas. Garcia also said that the number of individuals who were infected in the U.S. is increasing and exceeds the estimate of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The disease, which affects up to eight million people worldwide, is marked by symptoms that include body aches, fever, rash, diarrhea and vomiting but it can be very dangerous as those who were infected could develop potentially deadly heart and digestive disorders.

"We think of Chagas disease as a silent killer," Garcia said. "People don't normally feel sick, so they don't seek medical care, but it ultimately ends up causing heart disease in about 30 percent of those who are infected."

In one study involving 30 blood donors from Houston Texas, Garcia's team found that 17 were positive for Chagas and seven had heart problem associated with the disease. By conducting a survey on these individuals, the researchers found that about six of those positive of the infection were infected in the U.S.

"We were surprised to find that 36 percent had evidence of being a locally acquired case," Garcia said. "Additionally, 41 percent of this presumably healthy blood donor population had heart abnormalities consistent with Chagas cardiac disease."

Another study conducted by Jennifer Manne-Goehler, from the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues found that most of those who were infected by the parasitic Chagas disease were not treated.

Manne-Goehler and Garcia's studies will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene on Tuesday.

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