The once notorious night-time terror, the bed bug, has some competition to contend with in the minds of those climbing into bed tonight: the Triatomine bug better known as the “kissing” bug. Although endemic only in Central and South America, a map from the Centers of Disease Control show occurrences in 25 states in the U.S. from about the 43rd parallel southward. The kissing bug infects it’s host by leaving parasite-infested feces while it sucks blood with a needle-like mouth part. The host then touches or scratches the area introducing the parasite into the body usually through the mouth, eyes or open sore. The parasite is called Trypanosoma cruzi and can cause deadly disease
Kissing Bug Basics
These bugs infest housing structures made of mud, adobe and thatch usually seen more frequently in Central and South America, but the bugs have made inroads in the U.S. also. Triatomine bugs also reside in or near rodent and bird nests and dog houses a bit further north on the continent. Though not as frequently as nests they can also get into your house. They feed on mammals, birds and other vertebrates. Triatomines tend to bite humans on the face near the lips earning them the name “kissing” bug. They can also fly and are strongly attracted to light if you need another reason to be repulsed by the bug.
The Disease Process
Most infected kissing bugs defecate while feeding leaving the host to introduce into itself a nasty parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi which causes Chagas disease. Chagas disease is named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas who discovered it in 1909. Biting bugs aren’t the only mode of transmission; blood transfusions, organ transplants, food contaminated with Triatomine fecal matter and from mother to child during birth or breastfeeding. The Mayo Clinic suggests you can also get the disease from pets.
The T. cruzi parasite attacks the body inflaming the esophagus, colon and heart. Some people with Chagas don’t show severe acute symptoms initially and the disease can linger into a chronic phase making it harder to treat. Cardiomyopathy, a dangerous swelling of the heart muscle, resulting from chronic Chagas can kill you. Identification and treatment of the disease is important in the early stages to avoid damage to organs which could give rise to more medical problems in the future.
What Can You Do?
Triatomines like wooded areas where they feed on wild animals. Move woodpiles and brush further away from your home. You don’t want to create a hospitable environment for them so close to your family or pets. If you got a dog house, clean it out and sanitize it to run out any resident bugs. You can call an exterminator for proper identification of the Triatomine bugs because there are other bugs similar in appearance; the exterminator can apply chemicals to kill kissing bugs in the event of an actual infestation. Pay close attention to your health as you should already be doing. If bitten you want to catch the disease early in it’s development.
The battle against Chagas Disease has taken a turn in favor of humans with the announcement that the genomes of the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite and one of the species of kissing bug have been decoded. These developments can pave the way for better kissing bug control and possibly a more effective cure of T. cruzi than what already exists. Knowing this scourge is being worked on and that this disease is curable should allow everyone to sleep better tonight. The alcohol and heat can kill bed bugs present at the bed sheet of the room. The bites of the bugs can cause swelling of the body part. It is important for you to implement the idea for getting rid of the bugs.