Why Is The Kissing Bug Freaking Everyone Out Right Now? The Insect Has Been Reported In Even More States

Southern states have been reporting recent outbreaks of Chagas disease, a rare but debilitating infection with symptoms that include flu-like symptoms as well as the swelling of eyelids. Those who've been infected have come in contact with the triatomine bug, commonly known as the kissing bug. The insect has been found in Latin America and parts of the south for years and has been on this planet for thousands of years. Why is the kissing bug freaking everyone out now, though? Unlike in years past when the kissing bug was reported in just a handful of states, the bug is showing up even more places than ever around the country, including in Hawaii.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 28 states have reportedly found kissing bugs, with two others posing the threat of imminently discovering them as well. The bugs are called kissing bugs because of the way they infect humans, which is typically on the mouth and eyes. The nocturnal insect can only infect those it's bitten by defecating in the open wound it's created. Initial cases of Chagas disease typically only last a few weeks to months at the most. However, the disease itself can stay dormant in a previously infected person for years, if not decades.

As of this writing, eleven types of kissing bugs have been reported across the aforementioned 28 states. Kissing bugs are typically found in cold, dark spaces such as piles of wood or under porches. The CDC has advised those who are at risk to seal any cracks in their house as well as add screens to open windows or doors. They've also advised that those with pets keep their animals indoors in the evening.

The following states have reported kissing bug sightings: California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Washington, D.C, and Virginia.

The CDC is looking to acquire any kissing bugs that are found for testing. Rather than immediately killing the bug, those who find them are encouraged to put the insect in a container and either freeze the container or fill it with rubbing alcohol. Worried that your home has been contaminated by the kissing bug even though you've caught it? The CDC suggests a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water or seven parts ethanol to three parts water to disinfect your home.

Image: Fotolia