WILLIAMSON — Growing up you may have heard your parents warn you about the “kissing bug” and as it turns out, there is a very real kissing bug that is sweeping across the country.
The insect has now been spotted in West Virginia and in bordering states including Kentucky.
The kissing bug, also known as the triatomine bug, is an insect that carries the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and can cause Chagas disease.
Trypanosoma cruzi lives in the digestive system of the kissing bug and is excreted during defecation or urination of the kissing bug after feeding. If this parasite enters your blood stream through the bite site or an open wound, you might become infected although not all infected people become sick.
Kissing bugs are blood-suckers, like mosquitoes and ticks that usually feed just after sunset. They are attracted to the light in houses, the odors that humans exhale, skin odors, and to the warmth of human bodies. Kissing bugs who enter a house will feed on household pets as well as humans.
Triatomine bugs received their name “kissing bugs” because they usually bite people near their mouth during the night while they sleep. This is due to their attraction to the odors exhaled by humans. Kissing bugs usually do not burrow under covers like other household pests such as spiders.
Kissing bugs can be found indoors in cracks and holes of substandard housing or in outdoors places such as beneath porches, brush piles, rodents nests or dog kennels.
According to Stan Mills, the program manager at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, one bug has been found in a southern county of West Virginia but says that the general public should not be too alarmed.
“I don’t think, if they’re here, there’s going to be very many of them,” Mills said.
According to the CDC, kissing bugs can be found in the southern region of the United States. According to the CDC, you can avoid kissing bugs by sealing cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs and doors. Removing wood or brush around your home is another way to prevent kissing bugs from entering the home.
If you do find a kissing bug, do not touch or squash the bug. Instead, place a container on top of the bug, slide the bug inside, and freeze the bug inside the closed container for 24 hours. Then, you can pad the bug inside the container, for transportation, and take it to your local extension service, a university laboratory, or your local health department for species identification. Your health department will contact CDC if needed.
Any material containing bug parts or feces should also be submitted for testing, preferably in a plastic bag or clean sealable container. Surfaces that have come into contact with the bug should be cleaned with either a solution made of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts tap water, or straight rubbing alcohol.
(Information obtained for this story on-line)
Madalin Sammons is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. Madalin can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 304-664-8225.