Health officials in Texoma have confirmed that lab tests have come up positive for a very serious disease-causing parasite found in an insect common to the area.

The Wichita County Health District has released a statement on a positive test found in Wichita County. A Triatomine insect (seen above) also known as 'conenose bugs', 'kissing bugs', 'assassin bugs', or 'vampire bugs' has tested positive for a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi.

If that bug were to bite you and it was infected with that parasite, you could get Chagas disease. The 'kissing bug' is a common bug in the Southern United States and are common to the Wichita Falls area. This is the first time the presence of Chagas disease has been recorded in Wichita County.

The Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District encourages citizens to avoid these bugs by implementing the following practices:

1. Avoid opening windows that are not screened or that have torn screens, especially at night. Kissing bugs are winged insects and can enter the home through unscreened windows.

2. Wear long sleeves, pants, and gloves when working outdoors in brush piles to avoid accidental bites.

3. Do not attempt to handle bugs barehanded, if you wish to catch the bug and submit for testing use a glove or plastic bag to collect the insect. Sanitize any surface that the bug may have touched; the disease is transmitted through their feces.

A single kissing bug is not necessarily a cause for alarm, but they can infest human and animal bedding and breed. Presence of immature kissing bugs in a home suggest that a breeding population may have formed nearby and a licensed pest control company may need to be contacted.

Here are a few variations of the Kissing Bug:

Kissing Bugs (Texas A&M University)
Kissing Bugs (Texas A&M University)

Untreated Chagas disease is a lifelong infection. Chagas has two phases, an acute and a chronic. The acute phase may be mild or asymptomatic with the primary issue being swelling at or near the bite. Most people then enter a prolonged asymptomatic form of the disease where few or no parasites can be found in the blood.

Many people are never aware of their infection; however, 20-30% of infected people may develop severe medical problems over the course of their life such as heart rhythm abnormalities, a dilated heart which doesn’t pump well, or a dilated esophagus or colon which can cause eating difficulties or difficulties passing stool. Like many diseases, Chagas disease is most dangerous to those with suppressed immune systems (for example, due to AIDS or chemotherapy).

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