A deadly insect known as the “kissing bug” has made its way into more than half of the United State, including Indiana.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the bugs typically feed on the blood of mammals, including humans and pets, biting them in the lip area. The bug may carry a parasite that can cause Chagas disease, which can cause long-term cardiac damage. The disease is mainly found in rural Central and South America, but some experts are concerned that cases are beginning to rise in the southern United States.
Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas have all reported infections of Chagas disease. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, rash, diarrhea, and vomiting. It can also cause heart failure and intestinal damage. The CDC reports Triatomine, the bug that the parasite is almost exclusively spread through, has been found in other U.S. states, including Indiana.
The bugs can live indoors, in cracks and holes of substandard housing, or in a variety of outdoor settings including:
- Beneath 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
Once inside your home, the bugs tend to hide in cracks or under beds and mattresses, including pet bedding, then come out at night, just like bed bugs.
If you see a Triatomine bug, the CDC says not to touch or squash it. Place a container on top of the bug, slide the bug inside and fill it with rubbing alcohol or freeze it. After killing the bug, take it to your local extension service, health department or a university laboratory or species identification. To keep your home safe from the 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 (lights can attract the bugs)
- Sealing holes and cracks leading to the attic, crawl spaces below the house, and to the outside
- Having pets sleep indoors, especially at night
- Keeping your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs