CDC: Deadly ‘Kissing Bug’ Spotted In Georgia, Southern States

Triatomine bugs, which are alternatively known as kissing bugs and are known to carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which can cause Chagas disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been spotted in a number of states.

Kissing bugs are said to be prevalent in Central and South America and Mexico, where it is estimated that there are about 8 million people carrying Chagas disease, with many not realizing they are infected, according to the CDC. Chagas disease can be life-threatening if left untreated, and some cases may last the entirety of a patient’s life.

CDC Kissing Bugs In southern US states. (Image via Venngage)Somewhat like mosquitoes, kissing bugs feed on the blood of mammals and other animals. Unlike malaria or Lyme disease, which is transmitted through insects’ saliva, kissing bugs transmit T. cruzi parasites through their feces. If a bug infected with the parasite defecates near a victim’s eyes, mouth, or open wound, such as a bite wound, they are left susceptible to Chagas disease.

The CDC reports that, even if a person is bitten by an infected bug, the chances of contracting the disease are low. Some people also report being allergic to bites from kissing bugs, which is a problem separate from Chagas disease. People who suspect that they have bitten bitten by kissing bugs and are concerned about Chagas disease or an allergic reaction are advised to seek treatment from a doctor.

CDC Kissing Bug report says bugs present in Southern US. [Image via CDC/World Health Organization via Wikimedia Commons | PD-USGov-HHS-CDC]Those who have found a kissing bug are encouraged not to touch or handle them, but to catch them and store them in a container with rubbing alcohol, or alternatively to freeze them in a container. They can then be presented to local health departments or university laboratories for identification and T. cruzi testing. The CDC may also be contacted through their Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria for those who do not have access to these services.

Surfaces that have come in contact with kissing bug feces or body parts should be cleaned with a solution made of at least 10 percent bleach. Contaminated linen and clothing should be washed as well.

There are reportedly reduviid bugs and beetles that look similar to kissing bugs. In some cases it may take an etymologist to be able to correctly tell the difference between them.

Deadly Kissing Bugs are in the United States reports the CDC. (Image via Centers For Disease Control and Prevention)Kissing bugs can live both indoors and outdoors and can be found under porches, inside sheds, in cracks, or in wood and brush piles. There are said to be 11 different species of the Triatomine bugs in the southern United States. Kissing bugs are known to be nocturnal. Typically, bites may be found on the body upon waking, with swelling or other symptoms beginning shortly after if Chagas disease or an allergic reaction is present.

The CDC reports that in Latin America “Synthetic pyrethroid sprays” have been used to combat kissing bugs, but that none are commercially available in the United States. The CDC recommends contacting a licensed pest control company if considering the use of insecticides to fight kissing bugs.

Treated curtains and bed nets have reportedly been shown to be effective in killing kissing bugs. Additionally, sealing all cracks and gaps in walls, both inside and outside, can helps stop kissing bugs, as well as keeping pets indoors, removing wood and brush from nearby buildings, locating bug-attracting lights away from buildings, and regularly checking for bugs can go a long way toward reducing the chances of encounters in areas where they have been spotted. Areas where animals sleep are also cited as locations where kissing bugs are often found.

Insect repellent is a worthy and effective precaution for warding-off kissing bugs when camping or taking part in activities outdoors, or as a temporary measure when forced to sleep in a dwelling where they may be present.

[Image via CDC/World Health Organization via Wikimedia Commons | PD-USGov-HHS-CDC]