The Kissing Bug: What You Need to Know

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Among the many topics that came across your Facebook feed in the past week, such as Black Friday shopping and how to properly fry a turkey, you may have seen a few posts about the “kissing bug”. Many of these posts talk about the dangers of the kissing bug and how to prevent it, but a good amount of it is exaggerated to a great extent. This week, we would like to set the record straight, and tell you what you really need to know about the kissing bug.

First and foremost, the inch-long, cockroach-resembling, kissing bug is nothing new to people, as there is documentation dating back to the early 1800’s on the critter. Its native home is in Latin America, but has spread to the southern U.S. on a variety of factors such as traveling and freight shipments. It has been nicknamed the kissing bug from its instinct to bite people around their mouths while they’re sleeping. And yes, while the bug does carry a parasite by the name of Trypanosoma cruzi, most of the side effects brought to you from these sources greatly exaggerate the chance of infection and the complications from it.

Trypanosoma cruzi when in humans can lead to a disease known as Chagas disease, but the chance of infection is very rare. In fact, an international study done by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States found that there is only one case of Chagas disease for every 900-4,000 contacts with the bug. While many rumors have said that it will lead to heart failure immediately, the truth cannot be further. Only if it is not treated, complications will arise; modern medicine is no match for the parasite. For one to get the parasite in their system, several conditions must be met: The bug must be infected with the parasite (about 50% of kissing bugs are), blood feed must commence, and fecal matter from the bug must be rubbed into the open wound. In the grand scheme of things, the chances of being infected is quite rare.

In the end, there is no need to panic, especially in New Jersey. Kissing bugs dislike the cold, so the chances of you being infected in December by this critter is extremely slim. However, it never hurts to make sure your doors and windows are sealed, and that there are no cracks in them, or to move brush piles and wood piles away from your house.

Finally, if you do think that a kissing bug defied the odds and is in your home, just give us a call, and we’ll be over in no time to check it out.

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