Bugs are usually harmless. At least, they seem so because they are so tiny. However, there are certain bugs which are carriers of certain diseases.
Triatomine bugs, known more commonly as “kissing bugs,” have been found in North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are as many as 300,000 Americans living with Chagas disease and approximately 8 million people living with the disease in Central and South America. You should be extremely careful.
Even though the bug looks harmless, it can carry a Trypanosoma cruzi parasite that causes Chagas disease. These bugs are typically found in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America and South America. Almost 8 million people are infected by this parasite, worldwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is not easy for this bug to give a human Chagas disease. The disease is transmitted through the bug’s feces. A person can only get Chagas disease from this deadly bug if the feces get rubbed into a bite wound or enter through an exposed body part such as the mouth or eyes.
The species typically found in southern regions in the United States looks similar to the species that are common to Chagas disease.
This insect feeds on human blood much like a mosquito, but it is specific to biting the face of its victims. The bite from this deadly bug begins to itch and as the host scratches the bite introducing the pathogen. People who are bitten don’t normally feel sick, so they don’t seek medical care.
But, it ends up causing heart disease in about 30% of those who are infected. Our native species are capable of carrying the Chagas Disease pathogen, but they don’t defecate as part of their feeding behavior therefore, the pathogen is not transmitted to humans. If you think you may have found one of the bugs you can bring the sample to your closest CDC office.
The CDC (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention) says these bugs can live in cracks and holes indoors and in outdoor spaces including:
- Beneath porches
- Between rocky structures
- Under cement
- 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
To keep these bugs away from you home, the CDC (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests:
- 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
- Having pets sleep indoors, especially at night
- Keeping your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean
If you think you’ve found this dangerous bug, the CDC suggests that you should not touch or squash the bug. 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, you may take it to your local extension service, health department, or a university laboratory for species identification.