As we head farther into Spring, it’s time for the triatomine bug, or ‘kissing bug’ to reemerge. Typically found in Mexico, Central America, and South America they are becoming more frequent in the southern United States.
An adult triatomine bug is about the size of a penny and can come in different shades of brown and black.
They have already been spotted in Louisiana.
Louisiana State Epidemiologist Dr. Raul Ratard said ‘kissing bugs’ have been found in several parishes including Jefferson, St. Charles and Terrebonne.
The concern with this bug is they typically bite people while they’re sleeping and can carry the deadly illness Chagas Disease.
People can become infected when a person who has been bitten, usually at night while sleeping, by the triatomine bug. The person then unknowingly rubs the bug’s feces into their mucous membranes or breaks the skin giving the parasites a way to enter the body.
Chagas disease has an acute and a chronic phase.
If untreated, infection is lifelong.
Acute Chagas disease occurs immediately after infection and can last a few weeks or months. During the acute phase, parasites may be found in the circulating blood. This phase of infection is usually mild or asymptomatic. There may be fever or swelling around the site of the bite.
Rarely, an acute infection may result in severe inflammation of the heart muscle or the brain and lining around the brain.
Following the acute phase, most infected people enter into a prolonged asymptomatic form of the disease called “chronic indeterminate”, during which few or no parasites are found in the blood.
The likelihood of being infected in small but the best thing you can do to avoid infection is to keep the bugs out of your home. Make sure all windows have screens that are in good condition without holes in them. Make sure all doors have a good seal all the way around them.
These bugs also hide in crevices, under the roof and even in dirt and mud mounds in your yard.
Spraying a pet-friendly insecticide inside and out can also help prevent them.
The CDC says if you do find a bug known for carrying the disease, do not touch it directly. Use gloves or a plastic bag to place it in a plastic bag. Take a picture of the bug and contact the Department of Health.