The deadly “Kissing Bug” or Triatomine bug, gets its name for how it bites, as it sucks blood usually from around the lips and face of sleeping people or animals.
It’s not the good night kiss that most expect when they are tucked into bed. No, when the Triatomine bug visits in the night, it’s not wishing its kissing partner sweet dreams.
Kissing Bug Bite
The bite itself is actually not dangerous, rather, it’s what the kissing bug leaves behind after its late-night visit that can be deadly – its feces. Yes, as though bugs coming to take a little of your blood in the middle of the night wasn’t bad enough. The Triatomine bug leaves its prey with a rather unsanitary parting gift. As the bug bites, it defecates. If it is infected with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, this parasite can be passed along to the host. Trypanosoma cruzi can lead to a potentially deadly infection called Chagas disease.
The Chagas virus manifests itself in two stages and carriers can be infected for many years without even knowing it.
- In the Acute phase, which can last for several weeks or months, those infected might be symptom-free or can experience rashes, fever, tiredness, aches and pains and stomach related sickness such as vomiting or loss of appetite.
- In about 30% of cases, people suffer from the Chronic stage, which can result in…
- cardiac issues including an enlarged heart
- an altered heart rate
- or even cardiac arrest.
- Chronic sufferers might also experience intestinal complications including an enlarged esophagus or colon.
Kissing Bug Stats
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that 11 different species of the Triatomine bug have been found in the southern United States, with the bug spotted in 28 states total. According, to a CDC report on Chagas Disease there are currently 300,000 people living in America now infected.
The Deadly Kissing Bug in Canada
While there are estimated to be between 5,000-10,000 people living in Canada now affected with Chagas, it is believed that these people contracted the parasite outside of Canada, as most are immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America where the kissing bug is prevalent.
The risk to Canadians is believed to be low, with the greatest risk being to those travelling outside the country to areas where Chagas disease is widespread. Precautions are advised in particular to those expecting to visit rural areas or will be sleeping outdoors.