"Kissing bug" spreading Chagas disease across country

By Cristina Rendon

Published 05/30 2012 06:12PM

Updated 05/31 2012 09:49AM

SALT LAKE (ABC 4 News) – Chagas disease is spreading across the country, causing concern in doctors.

Chagas disease is caused by a parasite called a Triatominae or “kissing bug.” One bite from the insect could leave you with lifelong problems.

Chagas disease is hard or impossible to cure. It can have a long incubation period before you may notice any symptoms, which include swelling at the infection site, a rash, body aches, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue and headaches.

“If this is becoming a new epidemic then we better jump on it now before it becomes a large epidemic like aids did,” William Skokos, a Salt Lake area resident, said.

Some doctors are comparing the disease to AIDS because it spreads easily, either genetically or through blood transfusion.

Chagas originated in Central and South America, but about 300,000 people in the United States have contracted it.

In extreme cases victims will develop enlarged hearts or intestines, which can fail or burst, causing sudden death.

“It affects your heart as well, so yes, it’s very concerning for me,” Skokos added.

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