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The Kissing Bug of Costa Rica

Be aware of the Triatomine bug, or a “Chinche” bug, also known as the “Kissing Bug” of Costa Rica.

These bugs are responsible for the Chagas Disease, infecting 6 to 7 million individuals worldwide. The potentially lethal condition causes severe damage to heart tissue and other organs.

People infected with the illness may not detect symptoms for years (decades), and 20-30% of those who do experience serious medical issues. Treatments have been known to fail if not supplied promptly.

The Chinch Bug

These insects are commonly found in populated areas with wet spaces, woodpiles, and proximity to pets and livestock. The bugs are known as “Kissing Bugs” because they frequently attack humans around their eyes or mouths.

The insect can defecate in or around the wound after being bitten, depositing a harmful parasite called “T. Cruzi.” This parasite will burrow into the body’s cells, grow, and multiply.

Bite Symptoms

A purple swelling of the eyelid or mouth is the most frequent immediate sign following a bite. Conjunctivitis, fevers, sore throats, muscular soreness, low appetite, and trouble breathing are all symptoms of infection.

Although there is no vaccination for Chagas disease, it is treatable if discovered and treated quickly after infection.

The key to surviving the Kissing Bug illness is catching it early and taking proper anti-parasite treatment, generally Benznidazole or Nifurtimox. (Keep in mind that drugs won’t help after Chagas has progressed to the chronic stage.)

If you suspect you’ve been bitten, see a doctor and get your blood checked.

History

The Chagas Disease was named after Carlos Chagas, a Brazilian doctor who discovered it in 1909.

Many historians think Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist, geologist, and biologist, suffered from the condition, based on his accounts of his symptoms while conducting a field study, and died of heart failure.

 

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