9% of Dogs in Texas Found to Carry Kissing Bug Disease
Have you heard of Kissing Bug Disease? Known officially as Chagas Disease it’s transmitted through nocturnal insects known as Kissing Bugs.
Chagas disease has infected millions of people in Central America, Mexico, and South America has made it’s way to Texas, but now it’s becoming prevalent amongst dogs in Texas.
How Chagas Disease is Transmitted
The parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) is the causative agent of Chagas disease. It’s a tropical disease that effects 8 million people across Mexico and Central and South America.
Most cases of Chagas are transmitted to humans from direct contact with the feces of an infected bug. Kissing bugs bite humans, suck their blood and then leave feces behind that may penetrate the skin.
Other ways people can get Chagas include:
- Organ transplantation
- Blood transfusion
- Congenital transmission (mother to baby)
- Consumption of uncooked contaminated food
So while it’s quite alarming that the disease has been spreading in the southern U.S. keep in mind the chances of you getting it directly from your dog are very slim.
Infection Rate in the United States
In the United States the infection rate is estimated to be between 300,000 and 1 million. Most human infections are likely due to exposure in Latin America. Both humans and dogs are succeptible to the disease.
Symptoms of Chagas Disease
Symptoms of Chagas disease in humans and dogs range from completely asymptomatic to acute myocarditis and sudden death to chronic progressive cardiac disease. There is no vaccine available for humans or dogs. Currently there are no Food and Drug Administration approved drugs available to U.S. citizens to treat Chagas. Many of the treatments available are only effective if the disease is caught in its early stages though the medications are generally not well tolerated.
Since the Texas Department of State Health began tracking the disease in 2013 only 19 human cases have been found.
Evidence That Disease Has Been Spreading, Especially Among Dogs
Researchers have found evidence that the disease has been spreading in Texas and New Orleans. The research team based at Texas A&M tested 205 shelter dogs in Texas, 9% of the dogs in every part of the state tested positive. The study only tested shelter dogs but it’s common amongst all dogs across the state.
Shelter dogs had widespread exposure to T. cruzi across 7 ecologic regions in Texas, with a conservative statewide average of 8.8% seroprevalence. -CDC
Chances of Catching It From Your Are Dog Extremely Low
The chances of a dog passing the parasite onto his owner is very low. For the parasite to pass from a dog to a person it needs to go through the kissing bug. The only way a human can become infected through there dog is if the kissing bug bites the dog and then quickly moves onto bite the owner after the dog has been infected.
“The last thing we want to do is put a bad taste in people’s mouths about shelter dogs,” she says. “Shelter dogs are not posing a direct risk to humans.” – Dogs Carry Kissing Bug Disease in Texas & Latin America
If dogs in Texas are bitten by a kissing bug the chances of the bug carrying the parasite that causes Chagas are quite high. Seven species of these kissing bugs known as Triatoma have been found across the state. Keeping your dog indoors or in an outdoor enclosed kennel can reduce the risk of your dog coming into contact with kissing bugs.
Dogs Susceptible to Catching the Kissing Bug
Dogs arriving at shelters, particularly stray dogs, are susceptible due to their prolonged exposure to the outdoors which leads to a much higher exposure rate to vectorborne pathogens.
Since the kissing bug itself isn’t common outside of southern & central Texas the disease is still considered quite rare in the United States
So while it’s perfectly fine to be aware that there’s a potential new health risk spreading we don’t need to worry about catching it from our dogs. So go ahead and give your dog a kiss – you won’t catch the kissing bug from him.