Strategies For Preventing And Treating Kissing Bug Disease

Kissing bug disease, caused by the triatomine bug, is not well-known in the United States, but it is prevalent in Latin America. The bug usually bites its victim while they are sleeping around their face or eyes. While they are biting, they leave behind droppings, which is where the problem lies, as kissing bug disease is carried through the defecation of the insects. The symptoms of being infected with the virus are very general and vague. Many of the symptoms during the acute stage of the condition mimic mild flu symptoms, and many patients don't think anything about it. Unfortunately, the virus stays in the individual's system and can emerge later in life, even twenty years later. This is called the chronic stage and can bring about significant health issues, including heart problems. Get to know how to treat and prevent kissing bug disease now.



Medications used to treat the kissing bug disease include benznidazole and nifurtimox, which work to kill the infection. Individuals who suspect they may have been bitten and infected with the kissing bug disease should see a doctor right away. Blood tests can be run to see if the disease is present. If so, doctors can help treat it immediately with medication, which will ideally help patients avoid suffering from any ill effects in the future. However, if individuals do not seek treatment right away, the medication becomes quite a bit less effective. Patients who do take the necessary medication must do so for up to two months, as this helps ensure they work properly. Of course, patients have to be careful when taking the medication because there can be side effects, though these are more prevalent in seniors and individuals with weakened immune systems.

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Individuals who are not treated for the acute stage of the kissing bug disease may suffer from cardiac issues later in life. Some patients will need to have a pacemaker to manage heart damage and other cardiac issues. Pacemakers will help the heart function normally and prevent abnormal heart rhythms. If the device senses the abnormal rhythm, it will send an electrical pulse to make the heart beat at a normal rate. The use of a pacemaker in someone suffering from kissing bug disease allows for longer life. Without the device, the mortality of patients with the disease is significantly higher. Therefore, poorer countries suffer from a higher death rate due to cardiac arrhythmia because of the inability to get modern health intervention.

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Surgical Intervention


Depending on the damage kissing bug disease has done to the heart, surgical intervention may be able to help repair it. There are ways to strengthen a heart weakened due to the infection. For instance, a ventricular assist device can help the heart pump better, which will result in better blood flow. Consultation with a specialist is needed to determine what the best options are and what success might look like. However, depending on how long the patient has been suffering from kissing bug disease, medications to kill the parasite may not work. This means even after surgery, patients may still have the parasite, but their heart will be working better and hopefully allow them to lead a better life. Additionally, gastrointestinal complications can be caused by the parasite, and these might require surgery. These complications include an enlarged colon preventing gas and feces from passing or an enlarged esophagus that makes it hard to breathe.

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Diet Modification


The parasite can cause gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal reflux. These symptoms cannot really be cured or eliminated complexly, which means patients will have to consider significant diet modification to ease some of the symptoms. Doctors will try to put patients on a diet that will be less likely to produce excess acids in the stomach that cause reflux. Additionally, the diet may be bland because patients will want to try to eat things to reduce nausea associated with the disease.

Furthermore, the diet for kissing bug disease needs to have enough fiber and nutrients to reduce constipation and keep the body functioning correctly. This can be a challenge when trying to eliminate some of the gastrointestinal problems caused by the kissing bug disease. Patients may need to research to find appropriate foods and meet with a nutritionist who can help them make good food choices.

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Heart Transplant


When symptoms of cardiac issues appear because of the kissing bug disease, patients might have to consider a heart transplant. The parasites can damage the heart to the extent that it is not functioning properly, and other interventions have not fully worked. Getting a heart transplant is one of the most serious operations an individual can have, but if successful, it can lengthen the patient's life and give them a quality of life they did not have before the surgery. One of the downsides to a transplant is the length of time on the waiting list for a donor heart. It is not like other organ transplants that may be able to use living donors, like the kidney or liver. Additionally, the patient will need to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their life to help the body accept the new organ.

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Use of Insecticides


One way to prevent kissing bug disease is through the use of insecticides, though insecticides are often controversial. Many insecticides kill multiple species of bugs, including harmless pollinators necessary for the environment. Some insecticides can also cause harm to plants, and pets or small children could die if they ingest the poison. If individuals do use an insecticide indoors, they should make sure it's labeled for use in the areas they're treating. In particular, if individuals treat their doghouse or pet structures, they must make sure the insecticide is safe for pets to lick or inhale. There aren't many insecticides specifically formulated for conenose bugs, but insecticides that target cockroaches should work.

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Use Mosquito Nets in Risky Areas


Another thing individuals can do to prevent kissing bug disease is to use mosquito nets in risky areas. These might include the porch, patio, any windows without screens, or any other places that kissing bugs may try to enter the house. Kissing bugs are attracted to light, so if individuals have lights on, they should make sure they're in an enclosed area that cannot be entered by the bugs. Mosquito nets are a type of mesh curtain that is too thick for mosquitoes to penetrate. In addition to preventing mosquitoes from entering their space, the curtain can keep out other bugs like moths and kissing bugs. Many nets are available through local grocery stores. It's possible to get nets treated with insecticides, but individuals should make sure they're safe to use around their home.

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Yeast Trap


A yeast trap is a do-it-yourself trap that can be created with household ingredients. If individuals use the right ingredients, the trap is safe to use around their home. It's a good option if they want an alternative to stronger chemicals and insect killers. Yeast traps are designed to handle household insects like beetles, bed bugs, and kissing bugs. If an individual's home has a serious kissing bug infestation, an exterminator is probably the only way to guarantee the problem will be solved. But for smaller issues, traps can help. Mix sugar and yeast together into a solution to create the trap's bait. As the yeast feeds on the sugar, it will produce carbon dioxide, which attracts bugs. Use a soda bottle as the body of the trap, creating footholds so the bugs can climb inside. They will then become stranded in the solution.

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Blood Bank Screening Tests


One way to prevent the spread of kissing bug disease is through blood bank screening tests. In addition to being transmitted by the bugs themselves, the disease can also be transmitted through the blood. Chagas disease is an infection of the blood that can sometimes be fatal. Researchers estimate up to 100,000 immigrants to the United States have the infection and don't realize it. Before anyone gives blood, they're screened for potential illnesses. Blood also needs to be screened before it's brought to the blood bank. In addition to Chagas disease, there are other blood-borne illnesses that can be transmitted through blood transfusions.


    HealthPrep Staff