An insect found throughout the Southern United States, including Texas, has an adorable name but carries a potentially deadly disease. Triatomine bugs, also known as "kissing bugs" carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which can cause Chagas disease in humans. The parasite is spread when the insect's feces are rubbed into a bite left by the insect, the eyes, or a mucous membrane (like mouth, nose, etc.). The kissing bug feeds by biting the skin and ingesting blood.

Well, that's not very cute at all!


What is Chagas Disease Like?


Chagas disease has two stages: acute and chronic, according to the CDC.

During the acute stage, a person can have no symptoms at all, or they may have, "fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting."  That sounds a lot like the flu, and it would likely take a doctor to properly diagnose Chagas at this stage, as it can also cause swelling of the liver and/ or spleen, or swelling at the site of the bite or where the kissing bug's poop was rubbed into the body, like the eye.

If the infection is not treated with antiparasitic medication, the infection will stay in the body and can cause, "severe inflammation and infection of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or brain (meningoencephalitis)" in small children or folks with a weakened immune system, and can lead to death.

In the chronic stage of the disease, some people will develop cardiac complications, which can also be deadly, and/ or gastrointestinal symptoms that are highly unpleasant, like "an enlarged esophagus (megaesophagus) or colon (megacolon) and can lead to difficulties with eating or pooping."

What Do Kissing Bugs Look Like, and Where Are They Found?


Here is an image from the CDC of the lifecycle of a kissing bug.

According to Terminex, "[kissing bugs] dark brown bodies grow to be about the size of a penny, and are patterned with orange or red stripes that run the length of their backs."

Kissing bugs are found in a variety of outdoor areas, including under porches, in chicken coops, in brush piles, etc. Generally, they will not be able to infest a home unless it is in a substandard state, where they can take up residence in cracks, holes, rodent nests, where pets sleep, or near mattresses.

For this reason, holes or cracks in a home should be repaired immediately and homes should be kept clean and rodent-free. You will likely want to call in a pest control expert should you discover any kissing bugs in your home.

Texas is Crawling with Bed Bugs, One City Among The Most Infected in the U.S. in '23

Each year Orkin puts together their list of the Top 50 Bed Bug Destinations in the United States. Let's take a look and see which cities top the list.

The Leading Causes of Death in Texas

These are the top 10 leading causes of death in Texas

Gallery Credit: Melissa Bartlett/TSM

15 Forbidden Foods that are Banned in the State of Texas

Gallery Credit: Tara Holley




More From News/Talk 95.1 & 790 KFYO