Kissing bugs appear to be moving north, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bug, which has already been reported in North Carolina and across the southern U.S., was recently confirmed in Kansas.
“I think it’s freaky, weird and scary,” said Helen Hubbard, a Wichita resident.
The bug is called a “kissing bug” because it is known to crawl around mouths and eyes, biting people as they sleep. The real danger of the bug isn’t its bite, officials say, but its feces.
Some of the insects can spread a disease-carrying parasite that infects people when it defecates on or near faces while feeding on your blood.
“When patients are sleepy and they rub the skin where the insect has bitten them, they’ll accidentally rub in the poop where the organism has bitten them into the wound, and then that’s how you get Chagas Disease,” said Tom Moore, an infectious disease physician. “From there, it extends from the skin into the bloodstream, and then over a period of years it can destroy the nerves that feed various parts of your body, so your heart, your esophagus, your colon.”
The American Heart Association says at least 300,000 people in the U.S. are infected by Chagas Disease.
“The cases of Chagas I’ve seen have been cases that have been primarily imported,” said Moore, adding that it is most common cause of cardiac rhythm disturbances in South America. “I’ve not seen anybody in Kansas who’s acquired the infection locally.”
Pesticides can be used to keep the bugs away. It’s also advised to seal windows and keep trash as well as piles of wood and rocks clear of your home.