A bug with a deadly bite is getting a lot of attention across the country. Known as the kissing bug, Triatomine bugs feed on human blood and leave behind a parasite that causes Chagas disease.
The bug often bites people in the face at night while they’re sleeping, hence the name kissing bug.
Chagas disease attacks tissue and muscles in the body and can cause a host of problems, including heart disease. Dr. Anil Mangla, a communicable diseases expert, says this: “It can be there for about twenty years, two decades, and then you start seeing these symptoms and one of the major symptoms is sudden death.” Other symptoms often include swelling near the bite and pain in the gut.
Chagas disease is most common in Central America and Mexico but has made a surge north into the southern U.S. recently, some think due to climate change.
Eleven different species of triatomine bugs have been found in the southern United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports the kissing bug has been reported in Florida, but has no details on exactly where.
The CDC says that Triatomine bugs are also called reduviid bugs, assassin bugs, cone-nosed bugs, and blood suckers. 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
The CDC says that triatomine bugs rarely infest indoor areas of houses because plastered walls and sealed entryways prevent the bugs from entering a home.
If you find Triatomine bugs that are not fully grown inside your home, the CDC says it could be an sign of infestation. When the bugs are found inside, they are likely to be in one of the following settings:
- Near pet resting areas
- In areas of rodent infestation
- In and around beds and bedrooms, especially under or near mattresses or night stands