Chagas Can Kill You–But You Might Not Even Know You Have It

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DALLAS--The little bug formally known as a Triatomine causes the Chagas (pronounced SHAH'-gus) disease in people and animals.

Researchers say as many as eight million people in Central and South America have Chagas, with more than 300,000 infected in the United States, and those numbers are growing.

The bugs are mostly found in Mexico and Central and South America. Most people in the U.S. who've come down with the disease got it abroad.

But now, the bugs are turning up a little closer to home.

A few bugs have turned up in North Texas counties, but more are showing up to our south. In Hays County south of Austin, at least 300 of the bugs have been detected.

They`re called kissing bugs because they feed on people`s faces. Those bites make the victims rub their faces and spread the bug's infected poop. Yech! A purple swelling of the eye can be one symptom of Chagas.

And those bugs can just be the starting point for a disease that doesn't have a vaccine. Pregnant women can give it to their unborn babies.

Other ways to get it include blood transfusions, organ transplants, contaminated food or accidental laboratory exposure.

Most infected people don`t know they have Chagas until they start having fever, fatigue, body and headaches, rashes, lost appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting--all of which could take years to show up.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should probably see a doctor, because left untreated, the disease could lead to death. And who wants that?

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