Deadly ‘kissing bug’ makes its way to more than half the US, including Utah

ST. GEORGE — A deadly “kissing bug” has crawled its way into the southern half of the United States, including Utah, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The “kissing bug,” more formally known as the triatomine insect, has been making headlines in recent weeks after cases of a parasitic infection called Chagas’ disease were reported in at least five states including Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas, according to the CDC.

Various triatomine bugs in all life stages, from eggs to nymphs to fully grown adults. A variety of bug species, that share similar traits, are pictured | Image courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, St. George News
Various triatomine bugs in all life stages, from eggs to nymphs to fully grown adults. A variety of bug species, that share similar traits, are pictured | Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, St. George News

Chagas’ disease, which may cause long-term cardiac damage and can be fatal if not treated, is caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite and is spread almost exclusively through bites, typically on the lip, from the triatomine insect.

“These bugs feed on the blood of animals and people at night,” according to University of Utah Health Care, “and then they defecate. If people unknowingly wipe the feces into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a sore, they can get sick.”

Symptoms in the first few weeks or months may include rash, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. However, once in the body, the parasite can remain hidden for years, eventually resulting in serious heart disease, including heart failure and abnormal heart rhythm, as well as intestinal damage.

While the disease can lead to serious complications, the vast majority of those infected will likely not show any symptoms.

Triatomine Bug Occurrence by State | Image courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, St. George News
Triatomine bug occurrence by state | Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, St. George News

According to the CDC, the deadly insect has made its way into every southern state, affecting more than half of the United States. The bugs are mainly found in rural Central and South America, but some experts are concerned that cases are beginning to rise in southern U.S. states.

Officials estimate that 8 million people in Mexico, Central America and South America have contracted the illness and estimate that 300,000 people with Chagas’ disease live in the United States.

Once the bugs have made their way inside your home, they tend to hide in cracks or under beds and mattresses, including pet bedding, then come out at night like bed bugs.

Precautions to prevent home infestation

  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs and doors
  • Remove wood, brush, and rock piles near your house
  • Make sure yard lights, which attract bugs, are not close to your house
  • Have pets sleep indoors, especially at night
  • Keep your house and any outdoor pet-resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs

“The insect should be safely captured and frozen, submerged in alcohol, or crushed with a shoe or rolled newspaper,” according to Utah Pests. “Do not handle the insect as that can result in a bite.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • maggie December 1, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Mmmmmmmmmm 8 million people in Mexico and south american countries affected by this bug. Now it is here. We should have built the wall sooner.

  • .... December 2, 2015 at 2:12 am

    I wonder how them critters will be affected by kissing a tweaker

  • Virginia December 2, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Yeah Maggie a wall would totally keep insects out. You’re a special kind of stupid aren’t you?

    • .... December 2, 2015 at 9:07 am

      Hey Virginia. Maggie made a joke. chill out ! You’re a special kind of stupid aren’t you ? to take that seriously

    • Brian December 2, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      No, a wall wouldn’t have prevented the bugs from ~migrating~ here, but most invasive species don’t arrive by migration, they hitch a ride in cargo, personal belongings, on people, etc. In the case of the norovirus that killed so many children in the past 18 months, it came across the southern border with all of the unattended children that came (and are still coming) to the US directly due to a lack of enforcing the law by the obama administration. This was an entirely new strain of the norovirus never before seen in the US and ended up killing many children and elderly. A “wall” on the southern border would have certainly avoided this and saved the lives of those children and elderly victims. It would also have saved the many people that have been murdered by those in the country illegally (many of whom have been deported many times), killed by them in car accidents, left holding the bag in car accidents when the illegal alien is uninsured, etc. All of that blood is directly on obama’s hands, and a less porous, more secure southern border with a “wall” would have definitely made a difference, as would enforcing the law (you know, the thing obama swore an oath to do).

    • Sylvia December 4, 2015 at 8:28 pm

      Thank u Virginia for speaking up on the stupid comment Maggie.. Thanks for shutting her stupid a** up. .
      *Ed. ellipses

  • DesertBill December 2, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Good one maggie. I’m still laughing!

  • wilbur December 2, 2015 at 9:17 am

    just another “act of love” from south of the border nature

  • NotSoFast December 2, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Maggie, Joking or not, I’m constantly being told It’s not Politically Correct to talk about safety tactics to protect the home land from perceived threats on the backs of cartel carriers.

  • Sylvia December 4, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Omg stupid m**** F***** people right away gotta say dumb a** racist comment… I hear alot of talk like that but those illegal immigrants like u say WORK HARD & work anywhere, they don’t stand on corners like WHITE lazy ass people with signs.. The people u should be worried about is the m**** f****** who are killing innocent people the dam terrorists yeah keep letting them come into this country illegally & legally so they can shoot up schools & cops & disabled people.. THAT’S THE REAL ENEMY… THINK BEFORE U SPEAK
    *Ed. ellipses

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