Texas is the latest to report an outbreak of infections from the Latin American triatomine bug after the pest had been spotted in other southern and western states, including Georgia, Alabama and California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The creepy crawler resembling a cockroach gets its colorful nickname because it likes to bite around the lips and eyes of people when they are asleep. More than half of the bugs carry a parasite that can cause Chagas disease in humans, dogs and other mammals.
The good news? To actually pass on the disease, the bug not only needs to bite you, but then defecate into the gash. If left untreated, up to 30% of bite victims will develop chronic conditions such as difficulty breathing, heart and intestinal complications, and, in extreme cases, death.
There have been eight million cases in Latin America and South America because of poorly constructed rural homes, according to the CDC.
To prevent an outbreak, the CDC recommends:
- Sealing cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors.
- Removing wood, brush, and rock piles near your house.
- Using screens on doors and windows and repairing any holes or tears.
- If possible, making sure yard lights are not close to your house (lights can attract the bugs).
- Sealing holes and cracks leading to the attic, crawl spaces below the house, and to the outside.
- Having pets sleep indoors, especially at night.
- Keeping your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs.
If you think you’ve found a kissing bug, do not touch or squash it. Place a container on top of the bug, slide the bug inside, and fill it with rubbing alcohol or, if not available, freeze the bug in the container. Then contact the CDC.