Deadly “Kissing Bug” reportedly makes its way to AL, GA

Scary reports are popping up about a potentially deadly bug making its way to Alabama and Georgia.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that people have seen the “Kissing Bug” across the Southeast. The bug, also known as the “silent killer,” is not inherently dangerous. But when the bug bites, beware of what comes next.

Jack Lockwood with Columbus Public Health Department says the “Kissing Bug” usually excretes after biting. The feces contain a parasite that carries Chagas, a disease that can kill if left untreated. Lockwood advises that all the bugs carry the parasite.

Triatomine bug, AKA "Kissing Bug"
Triatomine bug, AKA “Kissing Bug”

The insects are usually found in Central and South America. However, reports show the bugs recently creeping into the Southern half of the United States. The disease cannot be transmitted from human to human. But there are a variety of ways transmission could occur. Any fruit or uncooked food that the “Kissing Bug” excretes on can prove to transmit Chagas. Pregnant women could transmit the disease to their baby. Someone could get the disease through blood transfusions and organ transplants as well.

“The bug is nocturnal and usually it’ll bite you around the face or on the lips while you’re sleeping,” Lockwood said. “That’s why they call it the kissing bug.”

Symptoms of the Chagas disease resemble flu-like symptoms. If bitten, a person can experience fever, body aches and swelling on the bite spot. Lockwood cautions people that scratch these bites because that’s one way the disease can spread. A Georgia entomologist says Deet, a common ingredient found in insect repellent, is not effective against the “Kissing Bug.”

This map shows highlighted portions of the United States where people reported seeing "Kissing Bugs." (Courtesy: CDC)
This map shows highlighted portions of the United States where people reported seeing “Kissing Bugs.” (Courtesy: CDC)

Lockwood says the best preventative measures against catching the Chagas disease include washing one’s hands and taking care of what you put your hands on.

“If someone sees the bug or thinks they see the bug, they shouldn’t step on it or squish it or try to rub it out with their hand,” Lockwood advises. “Basically, what they should do is put a cup over it, slide some paper under there, and then have some rubbing alcohol so the bug could be disposed of. A person should avoid touching the bug.”

For more information on the “Kissing Bug” and where it could appear, click here and here.

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