An insect called the “kissing bug” which can spread a potentially deadly disease has made its way from Mexico and South America into over half of U.S. states.
The kissing bug — so named because it tends to bite its victim’s faces while they sleep — spreads infection by leaving fecal matter near the site of the bite. If the fecal matter is rubbed into the cut, it can reach the bloodstream and cause Chagas disease. Chagas disease can cause fever, diarrhea, rash, and even fatal heart failure. Chagas is treatable so long as it is caught quickly.
Though the insect has been in the U.S. for years, social media and news outlets have brought renewed interest to the danger — and overall ickiness — of the kissing bug.
The CDC says that the odds of contracting Chagas are low, but many remain wary of the disease. Over 8 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America have the disease. A recent study showed that 10% of dogs in animal shelters in Texas carry the disease, which could indicate an increased risk for humans.
Tips For Keeping the Kissing Bug at Bay
- Keep your truck windows and doors closed — especially at night. Kissing bugs need only a tiny crevice to gain entrance to your truck.
- Avoid parking near wooded areas if possible.
- If you ride with a pet, examine their bedding regularly. Kissing bugs like to hang out in pet bedding or blankets.
- Kill the lights at night when you can. Like any bug, kissing bugs are attracted to lights.
- Check your own bedding. Kissing bugs, like bed bugs, like to hide in your mattress during the day and then come out at night.
- Examine cracks and crevices in your truck.
- If you find a kissing bug, kill it with caution. Kissing bugs are notoriously difficult to kill. The CDC recommends that you trap kissing bugs in a jar and then drown them in alcohol or freeze them in water. The CDC asks that you take the trapped dead insects to your local health department.
- Please note that normal insect killers will not kill kissing bugs.