As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a bite by this insect does not always lead to Chagas disease as the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite is actually in the bug feces. To be more specific, the disease only develops if this fecal material gets rubbed into a bite wound or enters the body through an exposed part such as the mouth or eyes.
Although small and harmless in appearance, this insect causes heart disease in about 30% of those who are infected. It’s similar to mosquitos because it feeds on human blood too. What’s specific about this insect is that it usually bites its victims on their face. At first, the bite only itches, but as the host scratches the bitten area, the parasite enters the body. Once the parasite settles in, it leads to sickness and even heart diseases.
According to 11-ALIVE News, the triatomine bug, commonly referred to as the “kissing bug”, has been reported all across southern US. There’s an infographic below that shows this insect’s prevalence throughout the country.
The species native to the USA carry the Chagas Disease pathogen. However, their feeding behavior doesn’t involve defecating, so the likelihood of humans becoming infected is very low. Nevertheless, if you see one of the bugs in your area, contact your closest CDC office.
According to the CDC, “kissing bugs” can be found indoors in cracks and holes, as well as outdoors in these places:
- under porches
- between rocky structures
- under cement
- in rock, wood, brush piles, or beneath bark
- in rodent nests or animal burrows
- in outdoor dog houses or kennels
- in chicken coops or houses.
For optimal protection against these bugs, the CDC recommends:
- Sealing cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors
- Removing wood, brush, and rock piles near your house
- Using screens on doors and windows and repairing any holes or tears
- If possible, making sure yard lights are not close to your house
- Having pets sleep indoors, especially at night
- Keeping your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean
Also, in case you find this dangerous bug, you shouldn’t touch or squash it, but put a container over it, slide the bug inside, and fill the container with rubbing alcohol. Alternatively, you can put the container in a freezer. Finally, contact your local extension service, health department, or a university laboratory for species identification.