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Jul 28, 2011

Healthy Living puckers up to the kissing bug

Have you heard of the kissing bug? If not, then listen up because Healthy Living has uncovered cases of the parasitic disease carried by the bug in the Jewel.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The rainy season started and the entire buzz has been about mosquitoes and the threat of dengue. But there has been a neglected disease that has fallen under the radar in Belize; one that many in our rural areas are exposed to. Director of Environmental Health for the Ministry of Health explains to us why we must be wary of the “kissing bug”

Dr. Jose Marenco, Dir. of Environmental Health, M.O.H.

Jose Marenco

“Chagas is a parasitic disease is caused by the parasite name Trypanosoma cruzi and it’s transmitted by a vector which is in this case a chinch. There are many of them but in Belize the one that is important to us is the one we call kissing bug or kissique and people call it different ways like chinch and so on.  In Belize so far we believe that the bug is more in the south and the west and the last study done here shows that the prevalence of the disease among the general population is very low, its bout, but we are noting an increase of people testing positive in the blood bank.”

The recent rise in new cases has underscored the need for education on chagas. The Chich, the bug that transmits the disease, is native to this region and is the main source of exposure to chagas.

Dr. Jose Marenco

“The way this is transmitted the bug actually sucks the blood, feed on blood animal or people but when it sucks on the blood of humans it also defecates on the skin and it’s the feces that have the parasite and people unconsciously would rub the feces into the little breakage of the skin and that’s how the parasite gain access to our system. Also they can get their hands soiled with the feces and eventually rub the eyes and it penetrates through the eye.”

Chagas does not affect the body immediately it has initial symptoms that are easy to miss but after years of having the disease, it is our man organs: our heart and intestines that suffer the most damage.

Dr. Jose Marenco

“It has just a few symptoms when it is acute. Fever, malaise and very unspecific symptoms but there is one that is very specific that is the swelling of the eye that is named Romana sign that is only present in like one out of every ten persons—so nine persons wouldn’t know. After getting in the system it goes latent for a many years and eventually by having been lodged in the heart or the muscle of the heart or intestine later in life when the person is just a young adult he starts suffering heart problems or digestive problems.  The case is that the presence of the parasite in the muscle of the heart or the muscles of the bowels causes the weakening of the walls and enlargement or dilation.”

Treatment is available in Belize for Chagas. However, chances of eliminating the parasite are closely linked to early detection.

Dr. Jose Marenco

“And so there is treatment and the treatment is geared towards eliminating the parasite from the system. So once a person goes through the sixty days treatment supposedly the parasite is eliminated from the system and the damage either stop or don’t progress anymore or depends if its early may just revert back.”

The mere presence of the chinch in your surroundings is an indicator of the risk of your exposure to chagas. Rural areas in Toledo & Cayo have been found to be the areas for greater concern.

Dr. Jose Marenco

“Our recommendation is defiantly to keep looking for the bug. The bug is very peculiar when you look at it hardly you will forget it. Definitely if you are certain that you have been exposed to this bug whether by the bug sucking your blood and defecating on your skin or if you unconsciously mash it and came in contact with the feces and the message get that information to our vector control people in every district they will go to your house & search and see for the presence of the bug and enough concern the test can be ordered by your treating physician.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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