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Chagas Awareness

Description of the Project

The goals of this project are to empower Hidalgo and Cameron county residents through an educational campaign on Chagas disease and provide a high impact learning experience for Texas A&M students.  Globally, Chagas disease affects 8 million people.  Individuals‌ ‌from‌ ‌Mexico,‌ ‌Central‌ ‌America,‌ ‌and‌ ‌South‌ ‌America‌ ‌are‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌highest‌ ‌risk‌ ‌of‌ ‌being‌ ‌infected.‌ ‌The‌ ‌kissing‌ ‌bug‌ ‌(vector)‌ ‌thrives‌ ‌in‌ ‌warm‌ ‌tropical‌ ‌climates.‌ ‌However,‌ ‌due‌ ‌to‌ ‌climate‌ ‌change‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌evidence‌ ‌that‌ ‌Chagas‌ ‌disease‌ ‌is‌ ‌becoming‌ ‌more‌ ‌prevalent‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌United‌ ‌States.‌ ‌In‌ ‌America,‌ ‌Chagas‌ ‌disease‌ ‌is‌ ‌estimated‌ ‌to‌ ‌affect‌ ‌about‌ ‌300,000‌ ‌people‌ and‌ ‌most‌ ‌aren’t‌ ‌aware‌ ‌they‌ ‌are‌ ‌infected.‌ ‌Our‌ ‌efforts‌ ‌are‌ ‌aimed‌ ‌at‌ ‌raising‌ ‌awareness‌ ‌of‌ ‌Chagas‌ ‌disease‌ ‌and‌ ‌providing‌ ‌resources‌ ‌for‌ ‌South‌ ‌Texas‌ ‌counties‌ ‌that‌ ‌are‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌highest‌ ‌risk.‌

                                                                              
                                                                                                                                                                                    Map shows current range of kissing bug vectors in the United States.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Source: Hamer Lab, Texas A&M University 

Health Resource Guide

A pdf of the health resource guide can be found here.

Chagas Overview

Common Signs and Symptoms

Early Stage:  fever, fatigue, headache, body aches, rash, swelling of the eyelid (Romana's sign)
Late Stage: heart complications, stomach/intestinal complications

 

Treatment

There is a treatment for Chagas disease if caught early on. Medications (Benznidazole and Nifurtimox) must be acquired by your healthcare provider from the CDC.


Chagas Disease = A Reportable Disease

Chagas disease is a reportable disease. This means that by law if you are diagnosed with Chagas disease the health provider, hospital, or laboratory must send those results to the appropriate state and territorial jurisdictions. The results along with personally identifiable information will be reported. This allows the state to provide immediate attention to control the disease--in forms of providing the patient with medication, and prevention resources if necessary.


How to Capture a Kissing Bug

Do not touch the kissing bug with your bare hand! Avoid crushing it as it might be carrying the parasite in its guts which can then spread to humans and animals.

Step 1: Grab a glove or plastic bag and place it around your hand. 

Step 2: Gently pick up the bug and place it in the sealed plastic bag or small container.

Step 3: Any surface that the kissing bugs came into contact with should be thoroughly cleaned with a disinfectant (10% bleach and 90% water).

Step 4: Call your local health department so that it may be collected and tested for Chagas disease.

  • If you choose to send the bug for testing please note the following:

    • Exactly where the bug was found (e.g. inside, outside, city, county)

    • Date it was found

    • Time of day it was found

    • Whether it was alive or dead when collected

    • What was the bug doing when found (e.g. feeding on human or animal, walking, flying)

Measures to Reduce Kissing Bugs on Your Property

  • Remove any piles of wood, brush, leaves, or animal nests. These are areas that kissing bugs will find to feed and shelter.
  • If you do have any woodpiles then keep them a good distance away from your house and above ground.
  • If you have any pets, bring them in at night or keep their outdoor housing well sealed. Check their pet bed frequently for any bugs.
  • Get rid of pests that live under or in the house. Consult your local health department or professional pest management company.
  • Seal any outside cracks or openings into your home, especially around windows and doors.


Kissings Bugs

Their peak season is May to October.
Bugs in the red box are the most common to Texas.

Photo Source: Gabriel Hamer

These bugs are commonly mistaken for kissing bugs.
         

      Wheel bug            Western corsinair        leaf-footed bug

Additional Information and Resources