CDC: 'kissing bugs' reported throughout southern US, appear to be moving north
It's a small bug that can cause big problems and, it's made its way to Kansas.
"I think it's freaky, weird and scary,” said Helen Hubbard.
Doctors call it the kissing bug because it's known to crawl around your mouth and eyes, biting you as you sleep.
But the real danger isn't in the bite but in its feces. The insects can spread a disease-carrying parasite when it defecates on or near your face while feeding on your blood.
"When patients are sleepy and they rub the skin where the insect has bitten them, they'll rub the poop where the organism has bitten them into the wound and then that's how you get Chagas Disease,” explained Infectious Disease Physician Tom Moore. “And from there it extends from the skin into the blood stream, and over a period of years it can destroy the nerves that feed various parts of your body, so your heart, your esophagus, your colon."
This map by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the states where cases have been reported and how the tiny crawler has made its way from down south to up north; experts say the reason is global warming.
"It's the most common cause of cardiac rhythm disturbances in South America,” Moore stated.
The American Heart Association says at least 300,000 people in the U.S. are affected by Chagas. Fortunately, in Kansas the numbers aren't high.
"The cases of Chagas I've seen have been primarily imported,” said Moore. “I've not seen anyone in Kansas who's acquired the infection locally."
Pesticides can be used to keep the bugs away. It's also advised to seal windows and keep trash as well as piles of wood and rocks clear of your home.
"That's good to hear it's not an epidemic and hopefully we won't have to worry about it,” Scott Hubbard added.