The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a deadly insect known as the kissing bug has made its way into more than half of the United States.
The government has issued warnings about the bug in 26 states, including Kansas and Missouri.
The insect typically feeds on the blood of mammals, making it a threat to humans and pets. It only comes out at night, so it’s hard to see. If it gets into a home, it’s hard to get rid of.
“What they’re looking for is any crack or crevice or entryway,” said Pat Van Hooser of SOS Pest Control.
She said the bug is bad news.
“They’ll bite you on your lips or the face,” she said. “Then what they do is pass a parasite to you and that’s what causes the Chagas disease.”
She said a tiny gap in the outside of a house is big enough for the bugs to come in. They can also get in through the roof or through gaps from cable or satellite wires.
“A lot of times, we don’t screen the vents up in our attic and so a lot of things get in that way,” Van Hooser said. “Sometimes you’ll find entry points where your cable wires and that kind of thing goes in.”
Back yards are also prime real estate for the pest.
“You come around here and you have a leaf pile and maybe some firewood. When you bring this firewood inside your home, you can be transporting all kinds of insects,” she said.
Pets can also bring the unwanted guest in the house.
“If you keep pets, they’ll move into the dog house or those kinds of areas because they’re looking for shelter, too,” she said.
She said the best prevention is keeping vegetation and tree limbs from touching the house and having a professional pest control company treat the home. Caulk can seal gaps in the foundation where hoses or cable wires come in.
Chagas disease that the kissing bug transmits can be fatal. More often, it becomes a chronic illness causing fever, fatigue, muscle pains and symptoms that can last for years.
Kissing bug bites are often mistaken for spider bites. Only a small percentage of people show signs of illness right away. Sometimes it can take years before Chagas disease is diagnosed in people who get bitten by the bug.