300K Americans may live with a chronic, deadly disease transmitted by the ‘kissing bug.’

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a green insect on a leaf: A red and black kissing bug from Missouri.

Every summer, health officials warn Americans to be on the lookout for disease-carrying pests such as mosquitoes and ticks. But few people are aware of the kissing bug.

Triatomine bugs, commonly known as kissing bugs, are vectors for a dangerous parasite that can cause a debilitating illness in humans called Chagas disease. If left untreated, the infectious disease can become lifelong and painful, and in some cases lead to death.

The key is early treatment, but many Americans living with the disease are unaware they have it, and a recent study suggests doctors are underdiagnosing it.“It’s such a neglected disease,” said Melissa Nolan, assistant professor at the University of South Carolina and lead author of the study published this week in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a peer-reviewed journal by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But health experts say the disease is not only difficult to diagnose – sometimes requiring multiple tests – it may require CDC intervention to treat.

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