It’s a deadly disease long associated with Latin America, but local researchers are now seeing a spike in cases right here in south Texas.
Found almost exclusively in Latin America, Chagas disease is mainly transmitted by an insect known as “the kissing bug”.
“In Latin America, when they would feed on humans, it prefers to feed around the eyes and mouth,” said wildlife biologist Troy Luepke.
“So there are millions of people in Latin American countries that are actually infected with the disease,” said Dr. Roel Lopez of Texas A&M University.
So why are researchers trapping kissing bugs right here in south Texas? While not new to the region, the bugs are being found at a rate never seen before.
For the past year, Troy Luepke has been setting up traps on public land like military bases and state parks, looking for mammals that may have been infected.
“Sixty to eighty percent of the animals we sampled have been infected,” Dr. Lopez said.