I’m a complete wuss when it comes to insects. So you can imagine my horror when I heard about the kissing bug. “Kissing bug?” Yes, it sounds harmless but they are parasitic and they can even be deadly by spreading Chagas disease to humans and animals. It’s really no wonder that the bug is also known as the assassin bug. And here’s where it gets really scary. While it was once fairly rare, the occurrence of parasitic infections of people in South America and the US is on the rise. Over 300,000 people in the US have been infected in the US and in Texas alone, approximately 400 dogs have died as a result of Chagas.

Kissing bugs feed on blood, biting people and animals around the eyes and mouth while they are sleeping. Their feces may contain the deadly parasite and it is during this process that the disease can be transferred. Dogs can also contract Chagas when they eat the bug or if they eat an infected animal’s feces. Early detection the infection is critical but Chagas is also known as the “silent killer” because it may be asymptomatic until a major one appears abruptly. Regardless, be aware of the possible symptoms:

  • weakness
  • poor coordination and confusion
  • seizures or jerky movements
  • diarrhoea
  • swollen abdomen
  • loss of appetite
  • depression and lethargy
  • increased heart rate

These symptoms can be quite common to other health problems but if you do notice them, there are specific tests available to detect Chagas. If it is found early enough, it can be successfully treated. Also, you can help help reduce the risk of exposure to this bug by doing the following:

  • keep pets indoors at night since the bugs are nocturnal
  • remove wood, brush, rock piles, etc. near your house or yard
  • seal holes, cracks, gaps, etc. in your window screens and storage spaces
  • keep outdoor dog houses elevated off of the ground
  • place your outdoor lights away from your house as they attract the bugs
  • keep your home and yard clean