Jul 18, 2019 | Updated: 09:53 AM EDT

Another Silent Killer Slowly Crawls and 'Kisses' in the U.S.

Nov 05, 2014 06:06 PM EST

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Kissing bugs are known to spread Chagas disease to sleeping victims
(Photo : www.good4utah.com)

The ongoing Ebola epidemic has taken the limelight for quite a long time now, leaving other equally deadly and terrifying diseases in the background. In fact, another deadly disease is "silently" posing a danger to the health of more and more Americans, according to researchers at the annual gathering of tropical medicine experts. This disease is called "Chagas", more commonly referred to as the "kissing bug" disease and finding its hold in the U.S.

Originally a more notorious problem in Mexico and other parts of South America, Chagas cases in the U.S have also been reported over the past few years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Labelled as a silent killer, as it is relatively hard to diagnose the disease in the early stages, Chagas is a parasitic infection that can lead to serious cardiac and intestinal complications, and  in extreme cases even death.

Blood-sucking "kissing" bugs are said to spread the disease and there are already an estimated 7 to 8 million people worldwide who have the disease. The disease can also be spread from blood transfusions, organ transplants and congenital transfer from mother to child, according to the CDC.

During a presentation at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in New Orleans, epidemiologist Melissa Nolan Garcia from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said there's reason to believe that Chagas could be creeping north. Her team had been following 17 Houston-area residents who had been infected.

The team reported that Texas' infection rate is a lot higher than anyone thought.

The researchers analyzed blood donors in Texas between 2008 and 2012 and found that one in every 6,500 donors tested positive for exposure to the parasite -- a figure that is 50 times higher than the Centers for Disease Control estimate.

"We were astonished to not only find such a high rate of individuals testing positive for Chagas in their blood, but also high rates of heart disease that appear to be Chagas-related," Garcia said in a statement.

Virginia was identified by the Baylor researchers as one of the states having the highest number of cases, but health officials in the state cautioned that the reports may be overstated.

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