Thursday, February 10, 2005

My Favorite Bugs. Part II

Let me first give the caveat that I use the term "favorite" quite loosely here. I wouldn't want one of these as a pet. I don't have any framed pictures of them sitting on my desk. I guess I'm just fascinated with this one, that's all.

O.K., o.k., so what the hell is this mystery bug you ask? It's called the Western Conenose Assassin Bug. The particular variety I'm referring to live in Latin America. First and foremost, they are blood suckers. Not the kind of innocuous ones like ticks that grab a quick blood snack from your calf while hiking through the woods. These like to emerge at night (and you have to admit, anything that likes to emerge when the lights are out is scary enough) to suck the blood from the faces of their sleeping victims. Those victims are none other than people like you and I. Are you with me so far? Pretty disturbing, eh? Wait... it gets better.

As if taking your blood without an invitation weren't enough of a crime, these assassin bugs also like to move their bowels when they're finished dining. Often the sleepers unwittingly scratch their face after the bite and the feces then finds its way into the skin. Other times, they simply deposit their stuff right in your eye. I guess this is his sick way of letting you know he was there (sort of like the Z from Zoro?). Anyway, this feces carries a parasite (that's right - it climbs up on your bed while you're snoozing in the middle of the night, crawls over to your face, sucks your blood, burries its feces in your face but not just any kind of feces - PARASITIC feces!!!). As a result, some people will start to get sick within a few days of the attack. High fever, swelling, redness in the face, droopy eyes, sweating, the "shakes", etc. Basically, the flu times two.

If you've had enough at this point, you may wish to skip the rest. For those of you still with me, notice I said "SOME people will start to get sick". But not everyone. Most others will wake up in the morning unsymptomatic. They may not even notice a bite mark. Little do they know, they could now be infected with Chagas Disease. This disease is a really really bad infection. But you don't notice it right away. Not that day, not that week, not that month. If fact, it more or less lies dormant for years. Then anywhere from 10 to 40 years later, the chronic symptoms finally start to emerge. These are mostly centered in or around the heart and include enlarged heart, altered heart rate, weakening heart muscle, heart failure and cardiac arrest. Let me spell this out for you: you get a heart attack and die. You have a heart attack and die from a bastard bug that bit ya and shit ya up to 40 years earlier.

Can you imagine getting bit by one of these on your wedding night. Maybe you wake up the middle of the night because you felt something itchy on your face. You give it a few scratches, go back to sleep, wake up and get ready to fly to Hawaii for your Honeymoon. Forty years later you're on the 18th hole at the Boca Vista retirement village golf course with your old fart buddies when suddenly, just as you're about to tee off, you feel a little chest pain and the next second it's lights out. Ouch.

Now that's what I call disturbing.

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