American trypanosomiasis, or Chagas disease, could prove to be fatal to humans and animals. Many people might not even be aware that they are infected.
As reported by NBC5 News, more than 400 dogs were infected during 2011. The disease is spread by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, which is found in the Reduviidae bug.
More commonly known as the 'kissing bug' or 'assassin bug,' they transmit the disease through their fecal matter and bites.
Dogs can either contract the disease by eating the bugs or when the bugs feed on the optical or oral fluids while the dog sleeps. Children can contract the disease while playing in wooded areas.
According to the Center of Disease Control, the bugs are mainly found in Latin America, where approximately 8 to 10 million people are affected.
However, cases of Chagas disease have been reported in the southern part of the United States. As reported by Medscape, approximately 400,000 people are affected in the US and Spain.
While the disease cannot be transmitted from dog to human or from a human to another human, people can be infected through blood transfusions.
Other forms of transmission include organ transplants or accidentally consuming the bugs' fecal matter from contaminated uncooked foods.
Symptoms, however mild, include fever, headaches, fatigue or a rash. In some cases, there might be swelling of the eyelids, or the person may go into anaphylactic shock.
Diagnosis is usually carried out through blood tests or a heart tracing test, also known as an electrocardiogram or EKG. The CDC warns that some people might have the disease even when they 'feel fine.'
Residents who want to take action and secure their homes should focus on the areas under porches, cracks along walls, under slabs of cement as well as pet houses and chicken coups.
ABC Home and Commerical suggests that residents remove stacks of boxes or newspapers, and seal up any cracks in their homes. It is also recommended to call a pest control specialist.