‘Kissing bugs’ appear to be moving up north

National and World

WICHITA, Kansas (CNN) – A bad bug appears to be on the move, heading north.

The dreaded “kissing bug” can cause big problems, and it’s made its way to Kansas.

“I think it’s freaky, weird and scary,” said Helen Hubbard, a Wichita resident.

Doctors call it the kissing bug because it’s known to crawl around your mouth and eyes, biting you as you sleep.

But the real danger isn’t in the bite but in its feces.

The insects can spread a disease-carrying parasite when it defecates on or near your face while feeding on your blood.

“When patients, they’re 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, and 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,” said Dr. Tom Moore, an infectious disease physician.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a map, showing the states where cases have been reported and how the tiny crawler has made its way from down south to up north.

“It’s the most common cause of rhythm disturbances, cardiac rhythm disturbances in South America,” Dr. Moore said. 

The American Heart Association says at least 300,000 people in the U.S. are affected by Chagas. Fortunately, in Kansas, the numbers aren’t high.

“The cases of Chagas I’ve seen have been cases that have been primarily imported. I’ve not seen anybody, anyone in Kansas who has acquired the infection locally,” Moore said. 

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.

“That’s good to hear it’s not an epidemic, and hopefully, we won’t have to worry about it,” Hubbard said. 

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