PITTSBURGH - Earlier this week, Channel 11 News reported on Texas health officials saying kissing bugs have infected at least 12 people with a parasite that has the rare potential to kill.
Since then, several Channel 11 viewers have sent photos of insects they believe look like the bug. So we took your concerns straight to the experts.
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“These pictures you showed me did look like kissing bugs,” said Henry Kacprzyk, curator at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Kissing bugs get their nickname because they favor biting human faces and lips at night. The parasite they leave behind causes Chagas disease. The bugs and parasite are usually only found in the tropics.
"Chagas disease is what the kissing bug passes on, and it's a protozoon parasite that's distributed by the insect,” Kacprzyk said.
The disease has an acute phase much like the flu to start. Then it transitions into a chronic phase, during which up to 30 percent of people develop heart problems and 10 percent develop gastrointestinal issues.
"Intense scratching in those areas are one of the symptoms that may result to a bite, and that's how it's often brought into a wound. And you become infected," Kacprzyk said.
In rare cases, Chagas disease can end in death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates eight million people in Mexico and Central and South America are infected with Chagas disease, yet most don't even know it.
There's no approved treatment for the disease. The CDC only has experimental drugs, which reportedly can be up to 85 percent effective, but they have to be taken soon after a person is infected.
Again, there have been no confirmed cases in Pennsylvania. But we’re keeping track of any and all developments.