Nothing Sexy About These “Kissing Bugs”

If you aren’t a fan of bugs, especially bugs that resemble tiny cockroaches, I wouldn’t google “triatomines,” or “Chagas disease,” or “kissing bugs.” Triatomine bugs are predictably gross, not to mention dangerous. They can carry Chagas disease in their feces. According to the CDC,

During the night, when the inhabitants are sleeping, the bugs emerge. Because they tend to feed on people’s faces, triatomine bugs are also known as “kissing bugs. ” After they bite and ingest blood, they defecate on the person. The person can become infected if T. cruzi parasites in the bug feces enter the body through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. The unsuspecting, sleeping person may accidentally scratch or rub the feces into the bite wound, eyes, or mouth.

Yum, right? Another tip: don’t eat while reading about bug feces, unless you are on a diet.

Many people who contract Chagas disease don’t know they have it, and if untreated the “infection is lifelong and can be life threatening.” According to the CDC, “The most recognized marker of acute Chagas disease is called Romaña’s sign, which includes swelling of the eyelids on the side of the face near the bite wound…” Other symptoms may be minor and go mostly unnoticed or mistaken for other things: fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, and rash.

However, some people may develop cardiac or intestinal complications. These include alarming problems such as: cardiomyopathy, heart failure, altered heart rate or rhythm, and cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association says that “Though mostly found in Central and South America, Chagas disease has become more common worldwide, including an estimated 300,000 infected persons in the United States.” They emphasize that early detection is important. “If caught early, an infection can be cured with medications that have a 60 to 90 percent success rate.”