Bugs that kill you!

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Gateway Pest Control, serving Jefferson County, Missouri and the entire St. Louis area

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Many people are afraid of bugs and some for good reason.  We all know people that are allergic to certain stings or bites with life threatening issues in the balance.  But you might be surprised if I told you a insect exist within our nation that will kill you and everyone can fall victim to it’s bite.  Have you seen the insect seen above?  If so you should be immediately tested for a disease known as Chagas. 

Also known as American trypanosomiasis   this is a tropical parasitic disease caused by the flagellate protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. T. cruziis commonly transmitted to humans and other mammals by an insect vector, the blood-sucking assassin bugs of the subfamily Triatominae (family Reduviidae) most commonly species belonging to the Triatoma, Rhodnius, and Panstrongylus genera.  The disease may also be spread through blood transfusion and organ transplantation, ingestion of food contaminated with parasites, and from a mother to her fetus. 

The symptoms of Chagas disease vary over the course of an infection.  In the early, acute stage, symptoms are mild and usually produce no more than local swelling at the site of infection.  The initial acute phase is responsive to antiparasitic treatments, with 60-90% cure rates. After 4–8 weeks, individuals with active infections enter the chronic phase of Chagas disease that is asymptomatic for 60-80% of chronically infected individuals through their lifetime. The antiparasitic treatments also appear to delay or prevent the development of disease symptoms during the chronic phase of the disease, but 20-40% of chronically infected individuals will still eventually develop life-threatening heart and digestive system disorders. The currently available antiparasitic treatments for Chagas disease are benznidazole and nifurtimox, which can cause temporary side effects in many patients including skin disorders, brain toxicity, and digestive system irritation. 

Chagas disease is contracted primarily in the Americas, particularly in poor, rural areas of Mexico, Central America, and South America; very rarely, the disease has originated in the Southern United States. The insects that spread the disease are known by various local names, including vinchuca in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, barbeiro (the barber) in Brazil, pito in Colombia, chinche in Central America, chipo in Venezuela, chupança, chinchorro, and “the kissing bug”. It is estimated that as many as 8 to 11 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America have Chagas disease, most of whom do not know they are infected. Large-scale population movements from rural to urban areas of Latin America and to other regions of the world have increased the geographic distribution of Chagas disease, and cases have been noted in many countries, particularly in Europe.  Control strategies have mostly focused on eliminating the triatomine insect vector and preventing transmission from other sources. 

We are a mobile society, people have tested positive for Chagas in everyone of the 48 continental states and the disease is known to have moved North with climate change in the last few decades.  However, like the current bed bug issues facing America Chagas can also be spread by travelers bringing home unwanted house guest via their suitcases and other packages.  The threat is real, never before has a preventative insecticide plan for your home been so important.  Not ready to schedule an appointment?  Let’s examine the Chagas a little closer. 

The human disease occurs in two stages: an acute stage, which occurs shortly after an initial infection, and a chronic stage that develops over many years. 

The acute phase lasts for the first few weeks or months of infection. It usually occurs unnoticed because it is symptom free or exhibits only mild symptoms that are not unique to Chagas disease. These can include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. The signs on physical examination can include mild enlargement of the liver or spleen, swollen glands, and local swelling (a chagoma) where the parasite entered the body. The most recognized marker of acute Chagas disease is called Romaña’s sign, which includes swelling of the eyelids on the side of the face near the bite wound or where the bug feces were deposited or accidentally rubbed into the eye. Rarely, young children, or adults may die from the acute disease due to severe inflammation/infection of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or brain (meningoencephalitis).   The acute phase also can be severe in people with weakened immune systems. 

If symptoms develop during the acute phase, they usually resolve spontaneously within 3–8 weeks in approximately 90% of individuals.   Although the symptoms resolve, even with treatment the infection persists and enters a chronic phase. Of individuals with chronic Chagas disease, 60-80% will never develop symptoms (called indeterminatechronic Chagas disease), while the remaining 20-40% will develop life-threatening heart and/or digestive disorders during their lifetime (called determinatechronic Chagas disease). In 10% of individuals the disease progresses directly from the acute form to a symptomatic clinical form of chronic Chagas disease. 

The symptomatic (determinate) chronic stage affects the nervous system, digestive system and heart. About two thirds of people with chronic symptoms have cardiac damage, including cardiomyopathy, which causes heart rhythm abnormalities and may result in sudden death. About one third of patients go on to develop digestive system damage, resulting in dilation of the digestive tract (megacolon and megaesophagus), accompanied by severe weight loss. Swallowing difficulties (secondary achalasia) may be the first symptom of digestive disturbances and may lead to malnutrition.[2] Twenty to fifty percent of individuals with intestinal involvement also exhibit cardiac involvement.[2] Up to 10% of chronically infected individuals develop neuritis that results in altered tendon reflexes and sensory impairment. Isolated cases exhibit central nervous system involvement, including dementia, confusion, chronic encephalopathy and sensitivity and motor deficits.[7] 

The clinical manifestations of Chagas disease are due to cell death in the target tissues that occurs during the infective cycle, by sequentially inducing an inflammatory response, cellular lesions, and fibrosis. For example, intracellular amastigotes destroy the intramural neurons of the autonomic nervous system in the intestine and heart, leading to megaintestine and heart aneurysms, respectively. If left untreated, Chagas disease can be fatal, in most cases due to heart muscle damage. 

Most experts will tell yo the insect shown above primarily exist in South America and Mexico.  However, the recent Bed Bug explosion shows just how quickly an insect can relocate in the luggage and on the person of American travelers.  Not to mention climate changes are expanding animals and insects natural ranges.  Today it is not uncommon to see Armadillos as far North as the Missouri River in Missouri, but just ten years ago they seldom were seen outside of Texas.  Likewise the tropical diseases are finding their way North, introducing millions of people to dangers never before seen in North America.

The main mode of transmission for Chagas is through an insect vector called a triatomine bug.  And we kill bugs.  If you have put off calling before, now is the time.

Gateway Pest Control

(636) 525-1008

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