South Carolina

Deadly kissing bugs, already reported in the Carolinas, have spread north, CDC says

What are kissing bugs? And why are they deadly?

Triatomine bugs, aka “kissing bugs” can cause a deadly disease. Here's a look at the bugs the CDC says have been reported in 28 U.S. states.
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Triatomine bugs, aka “kissing bugs” can cause a deadly disease. Here's a look at the bugs the CDC says have been reported in 28 U.S. states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a girl in Delaware was bitten by a “kissing bug,” ABC News reported.

It is the first time a kissing bug has been confirmed in Delaware, according to Fox News.

That marks one of the northernmost states where the bug has been found, according to the CDC, which said the insect has been reported in both South Carolina and North Carolina.

Although it sounds frivolous, the bug’s nickname does not convey the serious damage it can cause.

Formally known as Triatomine bugs, the blood-sucking insects can “spread a deadly disease called Chagas,” with a bite, McClatchy reported.

And the bugs are spreading across the United States. The kissing bug has migrated across the nation after moving north from South and Central America, according to the Associated Press.

triatomine_map_sm2.jpg
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The bugs get their name because they “crawl around your face while you sleep and bite around your eyes and lips,” McClatchy reported.

They can spread a disease-carrying parasite when the bug “poops on or near a person while it is feeding on (their) blood, usually when the person is sleeping,” and then the feces is wiped into the bite, mouth or eye, according to the CDC.

The CDC said symptoms of Chagas include “fever, fatigue, body aches, headache and rash,” which can cause welts and itchy hives, according to ABC News. The disease can cause “life-threatening heart issues, including heart disease, strokes, arrhythmias and cardiac arrest,” but not all kissing bugs carry the disease, Fox News reported.

The American Heart Association said “at least” 300,000 people living in the U.S. are affected by Chagas.

The disease can be treated with medication if it “is caught early enough,” according to Fox News.

Kissing bugs are identifiable by the “band around the edge of the body that is striped with orange or red markings,” the AP said.

In an effort to prevent kissing bugs from infesting a home, it’s advised to keep trash as well as piles of wood and rocks away from the residence, while sealing windows — including ones with air conditioner units — doors and chimneys, while keeping pets inside at night, USA Today reported.

If kissing bugs are spotted, pesticides can be used to prevent an infestation, according to Texas A&M.

The CDC said people concerned about being bitten or who think they have Chagas should see a doctor, especially one who specializes in parasitic infections or infectious diseases.

Fight mosquitoes inside and outside with a few simple tips. Remember to cover windows with screens, remove standing water, and cover your skin with long sleeves shirt and pants. And don't forget insect repellent.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.


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