By Paul Bremmer
A hazardous insect from Latin America known as the triatomine bug, or “kissing bug,” has found its way to more than half the United States, serving as a reminder that a porous border lets in more than just human beings.
“We have a border security problem, no question about that, and part of the border security problem is a significant health problem,” said Dr. Lee Hieb, an orthopedic surgeon and past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
The kissing bug has been known to carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease, which can be fatal if left untreated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are currently about 300,000 cases of Chagas in the U.S., but most of those people were infected in Latin America.
Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, made a connection between the large immigrant influx from Latin America and the appearance of the triatomine bug in 28 different states.
“I think that if we have a lot more people coming from endemic areas into the United States, and they’re not being screened for this, and they’re going to an area where there’s the vector, then the chances are that the disease will be spreading more inside the United States,” Orient told WND.
Hieb, author of “Surviving the Medical Meltdown: Your Guide to Living Through the Disaster of Obamacare,” agreed with her fellow doctor that a lack of screening for Chagas is a problem. She asserted it’s necessary to intercept border-crossers who may spread Chagas to protect the public health.
“We’re unwilling to stop illegals who are bringing this disease across, so I guess I would say that’s the big lesson here, that they shouldn’t be surprised. Until they stop the source, it’s not going to go away,” Hieb told WND.
Hieb, who has criticized vaccines in the past, added, “It’s ironic that we’re more worried about vaccinating Americans than we are about looking at the root cause of these diseases coming through.”
By way of background, kissing bugs transmit Chagas disease to humans and other mammals through their feces. The insect sucks a person’s blood and defecates near the wound, and the parasite enters the human’s body if the fecal matter gets rubbed into a break in the skin or a mucous membrane, such as the eye or mouth. The CDC says not all triatomine bugs carry the parasite that causes Chagas, and thus the likelihood of a human actually contracting Chagas from such a bug is low.
Chagas disease is much more common in Latin American countries, where triatomine bugs often live in the cracks and holes of substandard housing, according to the CDC. Chagas infects roughly 9 million people in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in impoverished areas of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
And yet, 300,000 people are currently infected in the United States. The kissing bug has been found in 28 states, mostly in the southern half of the country. Orient said while Americans should not stay awake at night worrying about a Chagas infection, they need to be aware it is here in the country – and symptoms sometimes do not show up for years.
“I’m not going to ring alarm bells and say, ‘Everyone go out and get tested for Chagas,’ but we should be aware of this and it’s just one of the many consequences of not doing public health screening on people who are entering our country from countries that are severely impoverished and have a lot of diseases that we’re not familiar with here,” Orient said.
Hieb, for her part, pointed out Chagas disease is likely to impact far more Americans than those who are infected, when one considers where the infected people are coming from.
“If you let people in who are sick with bad diseases – these are people that are not employed, these are people that don’t have insurance – they’re not going to care for themselves; the American public’s going to care for them,” Hieb reasoned.
“Obamacare’s already a disaster. How can we, in good conscience, say the American taxpayer is deserving of taking care of all the world’s sick? Nobody can do that. So what it’s going to degrade is our own health care.”