How to avoid the bite of a kissing bug

treehugger.com
Melissa Breyer MelissaBreyer April 25, 2019

Kissing bugs can carry the parasite that causes Chagas disease, and they are now making their way through the US.

Meet the kissing bug; the contrary insect with a charming moniker and deadly habits. While its name may bring to mind ladybugs or other cute critters, the kissing bug is actually a nocturnal bloodsucker that comes with an inflammatory infectious disease. Good times.

Also known as triatomine bugs, kissing bugs can carry Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease. Once found only in Latin America, this creepy crawler has worked its way north to the U.S., where it can now be found in dozens of states. The CDC says that an estimated 8 million people living in Mexico, Central America, and South America have Chagas disease, most of whom do not know they are infected. If untreated, infection is lifelong and can be life threatening.

The first (acute) phase can last for a few weeks to a few months and often shows no symptoms, but may also present with fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. In the chronic phase, which can last for decades or forever, approximately 20 to 30 percent of infected people develop cardiac complications and/or gastrointestinal complications.

Called the kissing bug for its propensity to bite the face, the bug doesn’t directly deliver T. cruzi to the host. The pathogen lives in the bug’s feces; to infect a person, it finds its way into the bite, another area of broken skin, or through a mucous membrane.

kissing bugCDC/Public Domain

And while all of this is rather disturbing, the CDC points out that the transmission of the T. cruzi parasite from a bug to a human is not easy:

It is important to note that not all triatomine bugs are infected with the parasite that causes Chagas disease. The likelihood of getting T cruzi infection from a triatomine bug in the United States is low, even if the bug is infected.

That said, babies, people with compromised immune systems, and pets are all especially vulnerable. So if you live in a state in which kissing bugs have been confirmed, you can take these CDC precautions to keep them at bay and avoid being bitten.

kissing bugCDC/Public Domain

KNOW WHERE THEY LIVE

Beneath porches
Between rocky structures
Under concrete
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

When the bugs are found inside, they are likely to be in one of the following settings:

Near the places your pets sleep
In areas of rodent infestation
In and around beds and bedrooms, especially under or near mattresses or night stands

HOW TO PREVENT INFESTATION

An important precaution to avoid being bitten is to make sure they can’t get in your home in the first place. Since they bite at night, in bed will be the most likely place a person will be bitten.

Seal cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors.
Remove wood, brush, and rock piles near your house.
Use screens on doors and windows and repairing any holes or tears.
If possible, make sure yard lights are not close to your house (lights can attract the bugs).
Seal holes and cracks leading to the attic, crawl spaces below the house, and to the outside.
Have pets sleep indoors, especially at night.
Keep your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs.

For more information (and the sources used for this story), see the CDC pages: Chagas Disease, Triatomine Bug.

Kissing bugs can carry the parasite that causes Chagas disease, and they are now making their way through the US.

https://www.treehugger.com/health/how-avoid-bite-kissing-bug.html?utm_source=TreeHugger+Newsletters&utm_campaign=95a00d3832-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_11_16_2018_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32de41485d-95a00d3832-243719061

2 comments on “How to avoid the bite of a kissing bug

  1. Are some solid black and some mixed with red? What I saw looked almost like a black wasp or the black kissing bug in your more recent post, but it had what seemed like little black knobs on its feet, which was kind of cute. While I tried to figure out how to shoo it away from the doorstep it disappeared.

    Liked by 1 person

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