Chagas Disease, Tropical Insect-Borne Illness, May Be ‘New HIV/AIDS Of The Americas’

Chagas Disease, Tropical Insect-Borne Illness, May Be ‘New HIV/AIDS Of The Americas’


Chagas disease, a tropical illness that is transmitted by biting insects, may pose a major unseen threat to poor populations in the Americas and Europe, according to a report published May 29 in the journal PLoS.

The editorial, which was co-authored by several experts in tropical diseases from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, likens some aspects of the disease to that of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“Endemic Chagas disease has emerged as an important health disparity in the Americas,” the authors wrote. “As a result, we face a situation in both Latin America and the US that bears a resemblance to the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.”

Like AIDS, Chagas disease, which is already prevalent in Central and South America, “has a long incubation time and is hard or impossible to cure,” The New York Times reports.

The PLoS report found “a number of striking similarities between people living with Chagas disease and people… who contracted the [HIV/AIDS] in the first two decades of the… epidemic.” Among other similarities, the paper notes that both are chronic diseases that require prolonged treatment, and disproportionately affect those living in poverty.

To be clear, there are strong distinctions. Unlike HIV, a sexually transmitted disease, Chagas disease is caused by a parasite spread through bites from reduviid insects commonly known as kissing bugs. While HIV/AIDS attacks the body’s immune system, Chagas afflicts the heart and digestive organs.

According to the National Institutes of Health, complications from Chagas disease can include inflammation of the heart, esophagus and colon, as well as irregular heartbeat and heart failure. According to Nature magazine, some believe that the disease may have killed Charles Darwin.

Although the NIH states that it can “take more than 20 years from the original time of infection to develop heart or digestive problems,” the onset of symptoms can be catastrophic. According to The New York Times, one quarter of people that contract Chagas disease eventually develop enlarged organs that can potentially burst, causing sudden death.

The disease can also spread from mother to child and through blood transfusions, although blood banks in the United States have screened for it since 2007, according to the NIH.

While the disease is curable if it is caught early, the treatment is expensive and often stigmatizing, according to the PLoS paper. The disease already afflicts about 10 million people in Central and South America, and researchers are concerned that the disease could spread to the United States.

“The ‘globalization’ of Chagas translates to up to 1 million cases in the US alone, with an especially high burden of disease in Texas and along the Gulf coast,” the PLoS paper states, “although other estimates suggest that there are approximately 300,000 cases in the U.S.”

Chagas Disease And Climate Change

In March, Science Daily reported that climate change may be a prime factor in the spread of Chagas disease and other tropical illnesses. In it, Patricia Dorn, an expert on Chagas disease and co-author of a paper on the disease that was published in the March 14 online edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said that warmer climates would “absolutely” push the carriers of the disease further north.

“We know the bugs are already across the bottom two-thirds of the U.S., so the bugs are here, the parasites are here. Very likely with climate change they will shift further north and the range of some species will extend,” Dorn told Science Daily.

In addition, The Huffington Post has reported that global warming may greatly increase the spread diseases such as influenza and Lyme disease. New Ticks Spread Across Southeast, Diseases Rise New Ticks Spread Across Southeast, Diseases Rise


CHAPEL HILL, NC – In the trees and grasses of the South, there are a growing number of unwanted visitors that at best are an itchy nuisance and at worst can carry debilitating diseases: Ticks.

Public health officials say that numbers of reported cases of diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are not yet alarming and have not yet shown a definitive trend upward from a national perspective. But they do worry that more ticks means more of a risk that those diseases will spike.

And scientists are finding species of ticks not seen before in the region – just ask pediatric nurse Maria Mekeel, who has plucked 37 of the arachnids off herself and her husband over two months of dog walks.

The changes can be traced to 2009, when scientists found the Ixodes Affinis tick in North Carolina. The parasite, native to South America, had been previously seen only in coastal Florida and Georgia. That particular tick doesn’t bite humans, but it will bite animals. And scientists say a higher rate of disease in animals can make easier for other ticks to transmit to humans.

“Ticks are spreading, but usually not like wildfire,” said Joseph Piseman, chief of tickborne disease activity for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The spread is kind of slow but sure.”

Lyme disease is serious: It can cause paralysis, heart palpitations and death in extreme cases.

“We’re not talking about STD rates, but it’s common enough that people should be concerned,” said Charles Apperson, an entomologist who has studied ticks for three decades.

There are at least two other types of tick to contend with: The Gulf Coast variety and the Lone Star tick, common in its namesake state of Texas. The Gulf Coast tick, which until recently was not typically found as far north or east as North Carolina, carries a disease similar to the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

The Lone Star tick carries a flu-like infection, and Apperson said the main reason for its emergence in the region is a larger population of deer for it to feed upon. Scientists aren’t so sure about why other species are invading, however.

There is a national trend of an increasing number of ticks. Piseman said the Ixodes Affinis variety has been expanding in New York and Wisconsin, and Lone Star ticks have been spreading across the U.S. for decades.

For the most part, scientists are not yet examining why the populations have been spreading, said entomologist Bruce A. Harrison, who studied ticks for the state of North Carolina for nearly 20 years. He hypothesized it may be at least in part caused by climate change. As temperatures change, animals that are food for ticks migrate – often because the plants they eat are now growing elsewhere.

“All of it’s hooked together,” said Harrison, who is studying the migration patterns of animals that ticks feed upon to learn more about how and why the arachnids are spreading.

While the CDC hasn’t reported a spike in tick-borne diseases, officials in North Carolina have noticed an increase this year compared to a year earlier. Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases are up 50 percent this year, said state public health veterinarian Carl Williams. And while there typically wasn’t a single positive Lyme disease test 10 years ago, now there are a few each year, Mekeel said.

For now, the best tool is education. Mekeel has put those 37 ticks she plucked off herself and her husband into a petri dish, which she uses to teach schoolchildren about ticks. If kids roll around on the ground, the ticks can latch on in tough-to-find spots like hair or the groin area, said Mekeel, who has 22 years of experience as a pediatric nurse.

“We’ll have children that will come in with maybe one hundred ticks on them at a time, not always, but it happens,” she said. “I’ve actually had a family that went away on vacation and put their clothes away in the laundry room and came home after a week and their laundry room was covered in ticks that had hatched in their clothes.”

Bed Bugs in America Survey

From the NPMA’s Bed Bugs in America Survey:

  • One out of five Americans has had a bed bug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered bed bugs at home or in a hotel
  • Americans who have encountered bed bugs tend to be younger, live in urban areas and rent their homes. The incidence of bed bugs is three times higher in urban areas than in rural areas due to factors such as larger population size, apartment living and increased mobility, which are conducive to the rapid spread and breeding of bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs are found in all 50 states. Specifically, the pests were encountered by 17 percent of respondents in the Northeast; 20 percent in the Midwest; 20 percent in the South; and 19 percent in the West.
  • Most Americans are concerned about bed bugs and believe that infestations in the United States are increasing. Nearly 80 percent are most concerned about encountering bed bugs at hotels; 52 percent on public transportation; 49 percent in movie theaters; 44 percent in retail stores; 40 percent in medical facilities; 36 percent in their own homes; and 32 percent equally pointed to places of employment and friends’ homes. The fear of getting bitten topped the list of concerns.
  • As the public’s awareness of the bed bug resurgence grows, many Americans are modifying their behaviors to minimize their risk of an infestation: 27 percent have inspected or washed clothing upon returning from a trip; 25 percent have checked a hotel room for bed bugs; 17 percent have inspected or vacuumed a suitcase upon returning from a trip and 12 percent have altered or canceled travel plans because of concern about bed bugs.
  • Sixteen percent of survey respondents inspected second-hand furniture they have brought into their homes; 15 percent have checked dressing rooms when trying on clothing and 29 percent have washed new clothing immediately upon bringing it home from a store.
  • Of the 13 percent of respondents who said they knew someone who had a bed bug infestation in their home, 40 percent said they avoided entering the infested home and 33 percent discouraged those who had the infestation from entering their own home.
  • Despite the availability of information, most Americans still have misconceptions about bed bugs. Nearly half of respondents incorrectly believe that bed bugs transmit disease. However, research conducted to date has shown that bed bugs do not transmit disease to their human victims, although some people may experience itchy, red welts; 29 percent inaccurately believe bed bugs are more common among lower income households, and 37 percent believe bed bugs are attracted to dirty homes.  Bed bugs do not discriminate in regard to household income and are found in both sanitary and unsanitary conditions.


Other NPMA Bed Bug Facts:

  • Bed bugs can lay one to five eggs in a day and more than 500 in a lifetime.
  • Bed bugs can survive for seveal months without eating.
  • Bed bugs can withstand a wide range of temperatures, from nearly freezing to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bed bug draw blood for about five minutes before retreating to digest.
  • Bed bugs hatchlings are so small they can pass through a stitch-hole in a mattress.
  • Bed bugs can ingest seven times their own weight in blood, which would be the equivalent of an average-sized male drinking 120 gallons of liquid.
  • Bed bugs are found in all 50 U.S. states.

Florida Lawn Care

Information on Lawn Pests

AntsLooking for information on lawn pests in Florida? You have found the right place on the web! Most homeowners in Florida take pride in maintaining their gardens and landscapes. But healthy landscapes can bring certain Florida bugs, and these pests feed on plants and grass. Unless protective pest control measures are taken, various outdoor invaders can do extensive damage to your yard and garden.

Chinch bugs are seriously damaging to St Augustine and other turf grass species. They suck the plant juices through their needle-like beak and can also cause other internal injuries to the grass, which can result in yellowish and brown patches in lawns. These affected areas are frequently noticed first along concrete or asphalt-paved edges, or in water-stressed areas where the grass is growing in full sun.

Aphids and whitefly feed on vegetable plantings, ornamentals and tender plant parts such as grass shoots, sucking out essential fluids. Aphids and scale excrete a sweet substance known as honeydew that attracts ants and forms a sticky coating on leaves. The honeydew can form a fungus called “sooty mold,” which can make leaves, especially on ornamentals, look black and dirty. Aphids can also transmit plant viruses to their food plants, which can cause the plant to die. These pests, as well as chinch bugs, are particularly prevalent throughout the spring months.

Armyworms, sod webworms and grubworms eat the grass blades and shoots that make up healthy lawns, causing major damage to various kinds of turf grass. They are common during the fall months.

During fall and winter, mites and scale are common. Scale insects live in the soil and suck the juices from the grass roots of turf grass; they can also be harmful to ornamental plants. Symptoms attributed to scale insects include yellowing of the grass, followed by browning; scale damage becomes most noticeable when the grass is under stress due to drought, nutritional deficiencies and other afflictions. Ordinarily not a pest in well-managed lawns, mites are known to attack grasses. They suck the sap and cause leaves to appear blotched and stippled, and severe infestations can also kill plants.

Some of these pests are especially damaging since they are literally born and raised on lawn turf grass in the surrounding soil. Sod webworms eat various grasses as larvae and continue doing so as adults. Others, like mole crickets, destroy lawns by tunneling through the soil near the lawn’s surface, which loosens the soil so that the grass is often uprooted and dies due to the drying out of the root system. They also feed on grass roots, causing thinning of the turf, eventually resulting in bare soil. Mole crickets are common when the temperatures are the warmest and rainfall and humidity is high. They can also be found in and around your home in dark, damp places.

Slugsandsnails often move about on lawns and may injure adjacent plants. They are night feeders and leave mucous trails on plants and sidewalks. Plaster bagworms, close relatives of the clothes moth, are often found in sheds and garages.

Do you live in Florida and have a lawn pest problem in your landscape? Hulett Environmental Services offers custom designed lawn care treatments to control and prevent these pests!



Hulett Environmental Services offers tips for travelers to remain bed bug-free during vacation

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer travel season. As people begin to hit the road and embark on trips, Hulett Environmental is encouraging travelers to be on the lookout for bed bugs.

A recent study conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky found that bed bug infestations are on the rise in many places. In fact, 80% of pest professionals surveyed had treated bed bug infestations in hotels/motels in 2011.

“Bed bugs can be found in places that people typically frequent during vacations, such as hotels,” said Greg Rice, Marketing Director at Hulett Environmental. “Travelers can be more susceptible to encountering bed bugs and can unknowingly bring them home.”

Experts at Hulett Environmental and at the NPMA recommend the following steps travelers can take to remain bed bug-free on vacation:

  • Thoroughly inspect the entire hotel room before unpacking and settling in, including behind the headboard and around the bottom of other furniture.
  • Pull back the hotel bed sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly the corners, for telltale spots or stains.
  • If any pests are spotted, notify management and change rooms immediately. Be sure your new room is not adjacent to the possibly infested room.
  • Use a large plastic trash bag or a protective cover to store your luggage during your hotel stay.
  • When you return home, inspect and vacuum your suitcases thoroughly before bringing them into the house. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which will kill any bed bugs.
  • Wash all your clothes – even the items not worn – in hot water.

If you suspect a bed bug infestation, contact a licensed pest professional to identify the species and recommend a course of treatment. For more information, please visit

The Hulett Environmental Daily

Bug In McDonald’s Hash Browns: Man Claims To Find Deep-Fried Insect (Mealbreakers)

Bug In McDonald’s Hash Browns: Man Claims To Find Deep-Fried Insect (Mealbreakers)

via Huffington Post

Mealbreaker (n.): a nasty, non-edible surprise found in food while it is being eaten; often lawsuit-provoking, sometimes fabricated, always disgusting.

Reddit user LinkBoyJT posted an image Wednesday that might make your skin crawl. After ordering a McDonald’s hash brown and eating most of it, he says he was startled to find what he claims was a deep-fried insect stuck to the bottom half.

The text accompanying the image — which is pretty gross, by the way — reads “I was eating a hash brown from McDonald’s on the way home when I felt something on the bottom… ”

The user doesn’t disclose what type of insect it is, but it appears to be some sort of cockroach or moth. Late Wednesday night, he posted an update:

I took the thing and showed it to the manager and she marked my receipt so I could get the same meal for free the next time I come in for breakfast. She didn’t really seem all that concerned

This isn’t the first time bugs have allegedly been found in McDonald’s food. In 2010, an Ontario man discovered at least 50 dead ants in his breakfast burrito. Last year, a Miami family found insect parts in near every dish they ordered, starting with an order of pancakes, and an Australian patron found a cockroach stuck to the inside of an iced coffee.