As the very interesting Summer 2021 comes to an end, I would like to do my part and remind everyone about the Kissing Bug.

No, silly, it's not a bug you get from kissing another person, it's a creepy bug that likes biting faces and spreading a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. That parasite can give you a serious disease.

Makes you wonder how it got that nickname, right?

More on that in a minute.

Chagas Disease

The specific illness we're talking about here is Chagas disease, and you can catch it from exposure to the poop of the kissing bug.

According to the Department of Texas Health and Human Services, the scientific name for the species is Triatomines. Not only do they look disgusting, but the way they infect humans and animals is just plain gross.

When the bug bites a person, it may defecate and leave its feces. When the person scratches the area, the parasite that causes disease enters the bloodstream.

The disease can be spread through various ways including an infected pregnant mother to her unborn baby or by eating contaminated food or drinks that contain the bug's feces.

What Are The Numbers?

The bugs are found in many parts of Latin America, but also in the Southern part of the US. And to be more specific, here in Central Texas.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 300,000 people with Chagas disease are living in the US.

In Texas, between 2013 and 2020, 1691 cases of the disease were reported.

Where Kissing Bugs Are Found

Journalist Matt Lillywhite and Texas' Department of Health and Human Services report that the kissing bugs hang out mostly in Central and Southeast Texas, and usually come out at night. They apparently like biting people on the face, hence the nickname "kissing bugs".

The bugs are attracted to lights and live in a variety of outdoor settings including beneath porches, between rocky structures and spaces, and under cracked cement.
They also dwell In chicken coops, dog houses, rodent nests, and animal burrows.

How Do I Identify Them?

There a variety of kissing bugs, those you're most likely to spot in Texas look like a mix of a large cockroach and an armored beetle. Some have light orange or red stripes along their sides. Their heads and legs are both long and thin. Basically, they look like nightmare fuel.

Assassin bug, or kissing bug
Getty Images/iStockphoto

What Are the Symptoms of Chagas Disease?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two stages of the disease.

In the acute stage, you may experience swelling, fever, fatigue, a rash, body aches, eyelid swelling, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen glands, or even enlargement of your liver or spleen.

In the chronic phase, things get worse: irregular heartbeat, heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, difficulty swallowing due to your esophagus enlarging, and stomach pain or constipation caused by an enlarged colon.

So, not a lot of fun.

How to Prevent Kissing Bugs From Invading

The Department of Health and Human Services has released a few tips to reduce how many kissing bugs may be around your home.

They suggest you remove piles of excess leaves in animal nests, protect pets like dogs and cats by bringing them in at night, and getting rid of pests such as wild rodents.
HHS also suggests sealing the outside cracks that are open into buildings and homes, to keep your chimney flue closed when not in use, and carefully examining pet bedding for signs of infestation.

Be careful, and check out this video for more information:



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