As we edge closer to Valentine’s Day, you may be gearing up to pucker up – not so fast. You may want to keep those lips to yourself because there’s a certain insect which spreads a deadly disease by biting the area around your lips.
The disease caused by the ‘kissing bug’ is called Chagas disease, and health experts now put the health care cost of the old disease at $7 billion annually, according to The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Most Chagas cases occur in Latin America, but the disease is spreading northward. About 300,000 Americans, mostly Texans, are thought to carry the Chagas parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi.
Those U.S. infections could be running about $800 million each year in health care costs and lost productivity, the study estimates.
The high cost of this disease is forcing some health experts to take another look at Chagas disease, with some even going so far as to call it the new HIV of the Americas.
Early symptoms of Chagas’ disease include:
The initial phase of the disease, known as the acute phase, could last for months or years with no symptoms. If the illness is not treated though, the chronic phase could begin, with far more serious symptoms: