Certainly, bites from blood-sucking pests such as mosquitoes and kissing bugs are annoying, but the burning question is, “Can kissing bugs give you Chagas’ disease?”
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is carried in the fecal droppings of 60% of the over 100 known species of kissing bugs. In contrast to many bug bites, the bite of a kissing bug alone isn’t where the risk lies. Kissing bugs impolitely drop this threat in the same places they eat – your face and body.
Higher Risk Species
Certain species of kissing bugs are intermittent feeders. Unsurprisingly, these are more likely to infect their host due to laws of statistics. The more times these bugs crawl across someone, the more likely they are to leave an unwanted present.
Higher risk sleepers
Just as certain sayings go with people, startling a kissing bug is more likely to induce a fecal episode. Those that sleep like corpses are less likely to startle a feeding bug, but for those of us that toss, turn, and twitch, we may scare the Chagas’ out of a feeding bug.
What to watch for
If you know kissing bugs are present, have a medical professional check out any symptoms. The disease may be mild, but in other situations it can be long lasting. Furthermore, in untreated situations, it can cause congestive heart failure.
Some people show no symptoms, but others may experience pain in the abdomen or muscles, fever, body ache, headache, swelling around the eye, palpitations, or a skin rash.
Is Chagas Present in the US?
As far as kissing bug species that we know carry Chagas’ disease, 9 are from AZ, 5 from TX, 4 from CA, 2 in 16 states and 1 in 20 states. According to the CDC, this parasite infects nearly 300,000 people in the US.