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‘Kissing Bug’ Defecates In Face, Causes Heart Failure – Found Near NJ

bug bites, infection
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You would think an insect called the “kissing bug” would be something sweet and harmless, such as a tender ladybug or a darling butterfly. Actually, it’s a nasty beetle with a vicious parasite that infects a horrible disease into its victims during the night. It’s definitely not a bug you want to smooch or find in close proximity. Unfortunately, the kissing bug is migrating across the United States even as far north as New Jersey.

Meet The Kissing Bug

The kissing bug (or triatomine bug) is an insect that can carry the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, which causes Chagas disease. These bugs are usually about an inch in length with a large, almost diamond-like body and a small, cone-shaped head. Their most common feature is a band around the outer edge of their body with small orange or red stripes. (1, 2)

Kissing bugs feed on animal and human blood and are most active during the night. They are called kissing bugs because they will generally bite around the eyes and mouth. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely getting some serious vampire vibes here, and there’s nothing romantic about it. (2)

Places To Expect The Kissing Bug

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the kissing bug is typically found in South America, Central America, Mexico, and 28 of the United States. Dr. Vivian Bellofatto of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School has studied the kissing bug for decades. She reports that while the kissing bug was previously only found in Texas and California, people have found kissing bugs as far north as Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey as temperatures rise in those areas. (3)

Experts found that kissing bugs rarely enter modern houses and apartments, due to the sealed entryways and plastered walls built for insect prevention. However, rural areas or campgrounds have a higher risk. Kissing bugs are most commonly found in the following areas:

  • Under cement
  • In piles of rock, wood, brush, or bark
  • In chicken coops
  • Near rodent nests or animal burrows
  • In outdoor dog houses
  • Beneath porches (1)

Signs You’ve Been Bitten By A Kissing Bug

Although the kissing bug is known to sometimes carry the parasite connected with Chagas disease, the likelihood of your contracting the disease even after being bitten is slim. Kissing bugs carry the parasite in their feces. So the only way for a person to be infected is if the bug’s poop is rubbed into the bite. (1)

The signs of Chagas disease occur in two parts – an acute phase, and a chronic phase. The acute phase is difficult to detect because some people won’t show any signs or symptoms. Additionally, if symptoms do appear, are also common for many other types of illnesses. The acute phase generally lasts a few weeks to a few months following infection. If you do suspect a kissing bug bite, you should watch out for these signs:

  • Swelling near your eyes
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

The chronic phase symptoms may not appear until up to two years following infection. These include:

  • Enlarged heart
  • Heart failure
  • Altered heart rate or rhythm
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Enlarged esophagus or colon
  • Difficulties eating or defecating (4)

What To Do If You Find A Kissing Bug Or A Bite

If you see a kissing bug or even have a sneaking suspicion that a critter might be the kissing bug your first instinct will probably be to take a shoe to that sucker. But it’s very important that you do not touch or squash it. Instead, place a jar or other container over the bug and slide the lid underneath to catch it. Then take the little guy to your local health department or university laboratory so they can properly identify it. (1, 2)

If you think you have been bitten by the kissing bug the best course of action is to seek medical help. Call your doctor as soon as possible for testing. He will either perform the tests himself or recommend you to a specialist. The quicker you act, the better chance you have of successful treatment. (1, 4)

No Kissing Allowed

Kissing bugs that is. Don’t worry, Chagas disease is not transmitted from person-to-person like a cold or the flu or through casual contact with infected people or animals. Even still, just talking about this bug gives me the creepy-crawlies! But no matter how unpleasant it is, it’s important to be aware and prepared. Learn to recognize a kissing bug if you see one, keep an empty jar handy, and resist the urge to throw your shoe. Remember, taking quick and careful action in a moment of panic could prevent you from acquiring serious heart trouble in the long run.

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