Dangerous ‘Kissing Bug' Spreads to More Than Half of US, Including California

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a potentially deadly insect known as the "kissing bug" has made its way into every southern state, impacting more than half of the United States.

According to CDC, there have been reports of it in California, which noted four of the 11 different species of the bug also known as triatomines have been spotted in the state.

The bug  typically feeds on the blood of mammals, including humans and pets, biting them on the face (lip area).

Because most indoor structures in the United States are built with plastered walls and sealed entryways to prevent insect invasion, triatomine bugs rarely infest indoor areas of houses. Discovery of immature stages of the bug (wingless, smaller nymphs) inside may be an indication of infestation. When the bugs are found inside, they are likely to be in one of the following settings:

  • Near pet resting areas
  • In areas of rodent infestation
  • In and around beds and bedrooms, especially under or near mattresses or night stands
     

Precautions to prevent house infestation include:

  • Sealing cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors
  • Removing wood, brush, and rock piles near your house
  • Using screens on doors and windows and repairing any holes or tears
  • If possible, making sure yard lights are not close to your house (lights can attract the bugs)
  • Sealing holes and cracks leading to the attic, crawl spaces below the house, and to the outside
  • Having pets sleep indoors, especially at night
  • Keeping your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs
     

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, rash, diarrhea, and vomiting. It can also cause heart failure and intestinal damage.

The CDC says, do not touch or squash the bug. Place a container on top of the bug, slide the bug inside, and fill it with rubbing alcohol or, if not available, freeze the bug in the container.

Then, you may take it to your local extension service, health department, or a university laboratory for species identification. In the event that none of these resources is available in your area, you may contact CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria (parasites@cdc.gov) for species identification or T. cruzi testing.

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