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'Kissing Bugs' Moving North, What To Know About The Disease-Carrying Insect

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This is what the so-called kissing bug looks like at the different stages of its life. It is often identified by its brownish-black color, and the orange stripes on its side.   ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention )

The so-called kissing bugs are already present in southern states and are also making their way north. What are some important things to know about kissing bugs?

Kissing Bugs In The United States

Triatomine bugs, more commonly known as kissing bugs, are called as such because of their behavior of biting humans in the face, particularly near the mouth or eyes, and often when the human is sleeping.

Kissing bugs are common in places with warmer climates such as in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Australia, but they have since been spotted in many U.S. states. In particular, kissing bugs have been spotted in southern states since the 1800s, but recently they are also being observed in northern states as well.

Kissing Bugs

Kissing bugs are typically more active at night, and they feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and reptiles. They live in a variety of environments, but they can often be found in close proximity to a creature that they wish to feed upon.

Locations where kissing bugs are often found include wooded areas, under porches, under cement, between rocky structures, under bush piles, and in outdoor dog kennels or houses.

Chagas Disease

Unfortunately, the insects are carriers of Chagas disease, which is a condition that can cause fever, mild swelling, or in some cases inflammation of the heart or brain muscles. If left untreated, it can enter a chronic phase and even last for a lifetime.

The infection, however, does not come from the bite itself, but from the fecal matter of the insect, which gets smeared at the wound when the bitten person scratches.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 300,000 people with Chagas Disease in the United States, but that the number may be rising. Most of the cases are of people who got the infection after living in or traveling to South or Central America. As such, the agency has since set up education courses about Chagas disease for physicians and nurses.

No Need To Panic About Chagas Disease

Despite the spread of kissing bugs in the country, experts still say that there is no need to panic about Chagas disease because it is still considered rare in the United States. This, they say, is because of the bugs’ inefficacy in transmitting the parasite, their infrequent contact with humans, and their inability to permanently colonize homes.

That said, it is still wise to be wary of the bugs, as conditions might change to be more favorable for kissing bugs as a result of climate change.

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