UNM Professor: 'Kissing bug' can cause chronic disease | KOB 4
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UNM Professor: 'Kissing bug' can cause chronic disease

Eddie Garcia
September 13, 2018 06:27 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M .- UNM professor Ivy Hurwitz is actively studying what's known as the "kissing bug."

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The bug is prevalent in the southern United States and in Central and South America.

They're attracted to the carbon dioxide people breath out - especially when at rest.

"When people are sleeping, they climb down because they're attracted by carbon dioxide and then they kind of go around in your face and that's when they bite you," said Hurwitz, research associate professor with the Center for Global Health in the UNM Department of Internal Medicine. "They will bite you and will start taking your blood and as they're engorging, they will poop and the parasite is actually in the poop."

Hurwitz said it gets worse.

"Reflectively you would scratch and when you scratch, you would rub the parasite into the wound and that's when the parasite gets into you," said Hurwitz.

Hurwitz said the parasite can hide in the human body for a long time.

"Between 10-30 years later, it might reemerge and that's when you get the chronic disease," said Hurwitz.

That chronic ailment is called Chagas Disease which can lead to digestive and heart failure.

Hurwitz said most New Mexicans shouldn't worry.

"We don't have them in town, because we don't have the conditions for them to live," she said.

They are, however, found in the wilderness, in rat burrows.

Hurwitz said there have been no known cases of "Kissing Bugs" causing Chagas Disease in New Mexico. She said if a person was bitten, they would have a less than 1 percent chance of getting the parasite.

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Eddie Garcia

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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