CDC: Deadly 'kissing bug' reported in GA, AL

CDC: Deadly 'kissing bug' reported in GA, AL
Triatoma sanguisuga (Source: James Gathany/CDC)
Triatoma sanguisuga (Source: James Gathany/CDC)
The life stages and sizes of Triatomine bug. (Source: Global Health - Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria/CDC)
The life stages and sizes of Triatomine bug. (Source: Global Health - Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria/CDC)

ATLANTA (WTVM) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pest known as the "kissing bug" has is in the United States, and various species have been reported in both Georgia and Alabama.

Officially named the triatomine bug, it is a type of reduviid bug that carries a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi that causes Chagas disease, the CDC says. The bug also comes in 11 different species. The bug is known as "kissing" bugs, assassin bugs, cone-nosed bugs, and blood suckers.

An interesting thing to note is that the map comprises a generality of all species, but only two are native to Georgia (T. sanguisuga and T. lecticularia) and only one species is native to Alabama (Triatoma sanguisuga).

It is unclear to the CDC, however, how many reports there have been or where, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Triatomine can live indoors, in cracks and holes of substandard housing, or in a variety of outdoor settings including:

  • Beneath porches
  • Between rocky structures
  • Under cement
  • In rock, wood, brush piles, or beneath bark
  • In rodent nests or animal burrows
  • In outdoor dog houses or kennels
  • In chicken coops or houses

They are typically found in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America, with the bug being found is parts of southern Argentina. The 'kissing bug' has also been a huge problem in Texas recently.

At least 26 states, including the entire southeast and Hawaii, have had reported occurrences of the kissing bug since 2013.

The bug breeds mostly at night and feeds on the bloods of mammals, reptiles and birds. If infected with the parasite, a person can contract Chagas disease, which left untreated, could result in sudden death. The parasite is transferred through the bug's feces and into the host's body, causing infection.

"The bug generally defecates on or near a person while it is feeding on his or her blood, generally when the person is sleeping," the CDC says. "Transmission occurs when fecal material gets rubbed into the bite wound or into a mucous membrane (for example, the eye or mouth), and the parasite enters the body."

The CDC says the chances of getting Chagas disease in the U.S. are low. In fact, according to the Clinical Infectious Diseases of Oxford Journals, only seven "autochthonous vector-borne cases of infection have been reported in the U.S. since 1955. Those cases have been in Texas, with four, and one case in each California, Tennessee and Louisiana.

Derrick Mathias, assistant professor with the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University wants to express to everyone that the chances of getting Chagas disease in the southeast is very low.

"There are a few reasons for this: The main route of infection is different than mosquito- or tick-borne illnesses. The kissing bug cannot transmit parasites through its bite. The most common route of infection in Central and South America, where it's most common, is through the bug's feces," Mathias said in an email. "The vectors in that part of the world defecate when feeding, often on the face since they are attracted to carbon dioxide in your breathe, and transmission occurs when the feces get rubbed into the eyes or the bite site."

People can also be allergic to the bite of a kissing bug. For more information on Chagas disease, click here. Most of the world's cases of the disease have been diagnosed in Latin America.

The CDC says that most instances of the "kissing bug" are found in substandard housing, but finding wingless or larvae in the homes is a sign of infestation.

The pests can be found:

  • Near pet resting areas
  • In areas of rodent infestation
  • In and around beds and bedrooms, especially under or near mattresses or night stands

To keep these pests from inside of your home, you must:

  • Sealing cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors
  • Removing wood, brush, and rock piles near your house
  • Using screens on doors and windows and repairing any holes or tears
  • If possible, making sure yard lights are not close to your house (lights can attract the bugs)
  • Sealing holes and cracks leading to the attic, crawl spaces below the house, and to the outside
  • Having pets sleep indoors, especially at night
  • Keeping your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs

Please note that traditional pesticides, such as sprays and roach motels, do not work for the kissing bug, the CDC warns.

The CDC suggests that if you see one, capture it in a jar and try drowning it in rubbing alcohol or freezing it.

The CDC suggests that you either take it to your local extension service, health department, or a university laboratory for species identification. In the event that none of these resources is available in your area, you may contact CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria ( for species identification or T. cruzi testing.

For more information on the bug, visit the CDC website by clicking here.

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