Health officials in the United States have confirmed that an insect biting incident in Delaware last year was indeed caused by a "kissing bug."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a girl in Kent County, Delaware was bitten on the face by a blood-sucking insect while watching TV at home in July 2018. Initial investigations showed that the culprit may have been a kissing bug.
The federal agency has now revealed that the insect was a Triatoma sanguisuga. The creature, which is also known as the Eastern Bloodsucking Conenose or the Mexican Bed Bug, feeds on the blood of both animals and humans.
The Triatoma sanguisuga got its moniker as a kissing bug because of its habit of biting the faces of its victims.
While the kissing bug's bite is not necessarily dangerous, the insect is known to carry Chagas disease parasites that can severely affect the brain and heart.
Kissing Bug In Delaware
Officials from the Delaware Division of Public Health were the ones who identified the creature that bit the girl as a kissing bug. They took photographs of the culprit and sent them to the Kissing Bug Citizen Science Program at Texas A&M University, which monitors the activities of the insects across the United States.
The CDC conducted an analysis of the kissing bug's body shape and confirmed that it was a Triatoma sanguisuga.
The Delaware incident is the first such case involving the insect in the state. A suspected kissing bug was reported to Texas A&M in 2017, though the supposed culprit was later found dead. The CDC said no cases of kissing bug bitings were made at the time.
The specimen taken from last year's biting carried traces of human blood, but it tested negative for any presence of Chagas disease-causing parasites. The victim also did not fall ill after she was bitten.
What Is Chagas Disease?
Chagas disease, also called American trypanosomiasis, is a serious illness caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, according to the CDC. The infection is commonly transmitted through insect bites and is known to affect humans and animals alike.
While the disease is often found in rural areas of Latin America, it has also reached other regions in the Americas. As many as 8 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America are infected with disease, many of whom are not even aware that they have been infected.
If Chagas disease is left untreated, the infection is lifelong. It can also threaten the life of disease carriers.
People who contract an acute case of the infection will develop symptoms of the disease almost immediately. These can last for a few weeks or months after acquiring the illness. Traces of the T. cruzi parasite can be found circulating in the blood of patients.
At this stage of the infection, sufferers are often asymptomatic. They may develop fever or swelling around the site where they have been bitten by disease carrying insects.
In some cases, the disease can result in severe inflammation of the brain or heart muscle of patients. It can also affect the lining around the brain.
Sufferers may also enter a prolonged asymptomatic form later on. Doctors will only find little to no evidence of parasitic presence in patients' blood. This causes many people to think that they not infected or have outlasted the illness.
However, the CDC said 20 to 30 percent of patients with Chagas disease will develop severe and even life-threatening conditions throughout their lives.
Here are some of the known complications of chronic Chagas disease infection:
- Abnormalities in heart rhythm that can lead to sudden death
- Issues with blood circulation due to a dilation of the heart
- Difficulties in eating due to a dilation of the esophagus
- Difficulties in passing stool due to a dilation of the colon