‘Kissing bugs’ may be kiss of death for babies & small children

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The ‘kissing bug’ can cause Chagas disease, which can lead to heart problems and, in some cases, death.

The bugs often emerge at night and attack while you are sleeping.

“They’re called kissing bugs because they may bite around the lips,” Daniel Sprenger, manager of Vector Control in Shelby County, said.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explained people who live in the South need to be on the lookout.

The ‘kissing bug’ is most commonly found in South America, but a CDC map reveals there have been reported cases in the Mid-South.


“They’ll maybe get in the garage,” Sprenger said. “I heard of behind peg board.”

The CDC said the bugs can also be found under porches, stones, animal structures, and rodent nests.

“It actually can lead to death, unfortunately,” Sprenger said.

Death is most common in babies or small children, according to Sprenger. Most people who contract the disease end up breaking out into a severe allergic reaction.

Sprenger said there is a moderate amount of ‘kissing bugs’ in Tennessee and doesn’t believe people need to be extremely concerned.

“Worrying is excessive,” Sprenger said. “Being aware of something like this is good.”

November 13, 2014 | Michael Quander

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