Do House-Infesting Kissing Bugs Pose A Disease Threat To Georgia Residents
Kissing bugs are a group of airborne insects that are abundant in South America, Mexico and the southern US states. These insect pests invade homes where they inflict bites to humans, usually around the face, particularly the lips, hence their common name. It is often said that kissing bugs spread a dangerous disease to humans through their bites, but this is not exactly the case. The protozoan parasite that causes chagas disease is called Trypanosoma cruzi, and this parasite is actually located within kissing bug feces. Unfortunately, kissing bugs habitually defecate on human skin after inflicting bites. While itching at the bite, humans often spread the feces into the bite wound, allowing T. cruzi to enter the bloodstream, resulting in chagas infection. Although chagas disease cases have been increasing in the southern US, the chances of contracting the disease from kissing bugs remains quite low, even in Georgia where the first kissing bug documented in the US was found. Nevertheless, kissing bugs can still pose a nuisance within Georgia homes where the most common species, Triatoma sanguisuga, is commonly referred to as the “big bed bug,” or the “bloodsucking conenose Bug.”
Kissing bugs are nocturnal insects that invade homes through exterior cracks and other entry points on the external walls of houses. Kissing bugs hide indoors during the day, but at night they emerge and bite people while they are sleeping, similar to bed bugs. After learning that a home is infested with kissing bugs, residents should search for the pests in the same places where bed bugs are known to hide during the day. These hiding spots include all areas within 6 feet of beds, furniture and anywhere in a home where residents sleep and spend long periods of time. It is particularly important to search in between couch cushions and around head boards, bed frames, bedding and mattresses. Although the chances of contracting chagas disease from kissing bug bites in the US is slim, the anticoagulant saliva that the insect pests inject into the skin has sent some allergic individuals into anaphylactic shock. Filling cracks and crevices on exterior walls of homes will help to keep the pests from invading indoor areas.
Are you concerned about the possibility of contracting chagas disease from kissing bugs?