GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT) – A bug with a deadly bite is getting a lot of attention across the country. Known as the kissing bug, it feeds on human blood and leaves behind a parasite that causes Chagas disease.
The bug often bites people in the face at night while they’re sleeping, hence the name kissing bug.
Chagas disease attacks tissue and muscles in the body and can cause a host of problems, including heart disease.
Dr. Anil Mangla, a communicable diseases expert, says this, “It can be there for about 20 years, two decades, and then you start seeing these symptoms and one of the major symptoms is sudden death.”
Other symptoms often include swelling near the bite and pain in the gut.
Chagas disease is most common in Central America and Mexico but has made a surge north into the southern U.S. recently, some think due to climate change.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports the kissing bug has been spotted in North Carolina but has no details on exactly where.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says Chagas disease isn’t a reportable condition, so they don’t have any numbers on people affected in North Carolina.
Pest control experts say they haven’t come across the bug in the east, but they are aware of it. They add it’s important to be prepared.
Bill Patterson, a pest control expert with Worldwide Pest Control, says, “They just need to make sure that their house is sealed very well.”
That includes doors, windows, and any other cracks and crevices around your home. You’ll want to make sure you clean up any wood, brush, and rock piles near the outside of your home too. If you think you may have seen the insect, calling an exterminator is your best option.