Arizona July 14, 2019
A Parasitic Bug Has Been Spotted Throughout Arizona And Its Bite Can Be Deadly
We Arizonans understand on a deeply personal level that all sorts of critters emerge from the woodwork during the warmer months, and unfortunately, there’s an even more sinister creepy-crawler in town. The name “kissing bug” might sound innocent enough, but one bite from this deadly insect could kill you.
While its name might sound friendly, don't be fooled: the kiss of death is the only affection you'll receive from this sinister insect. Kissing bugs, which closely resemble stinkbugs, are spreading like wildfire throughout Arizona - and just one bite could instantly kill you. That's because they carry a pathogenic parasite that transmits something called Chagas disease.
Originating in Latin America, Chagas disease affects an estimated 8 to 10 million people worldwide. The illness was once thought to only exist in rural, underdeveloped areas. However, it's slowly infiltrating urban and suburban regions as well.
Kissing bugs have been spotted in 27 Southern U.S. states, where they've likely been living and multiplying for over a century. The first confirmed U.S. case was documented in 1955, plaguing a 10-month-old Texas girl. She suffered an elevated temperature, rash, and swelling for several days, but luckily ended up surviving.
Here in Arizona, there are seven different species of the insect that all carry Chagas. While they look similar in structure, it still takes a trained eye to recognize each one. Educating yourself on the subtle variances is crucial, however, because up to 50% of kissing bugs carry the deadly parasite that causes the sickness.
While the disease is most heavily concentrated in Pima County, 61 cases have been documented in Arizona as a whole. Researchers speculate it spreads via major highways when infected people travel and unknowingly pass the parasite to other humans.
Within a week of being bitten, the affected area may swell and turn red or purple. Some people experience fever, diarrhea, vomiting, a stomachache or loss of appetite, or fatigue. However, asymptomatic cases are common as well.
This makeshift mural might sound like fear-mongering, but its warning should be heeded. Roughly 30% of infected people will go on to develop life-threatening conditions such as arrhythmia, dilated heart or colon, and even full-blown cardiovascular failure. These dire complications can sometimes take years to arise. You'll want to keep a keen eye out for the kissing bug in Arizona.
For more information about the kissing bug and Chagas disease, head to the Center for Disease Control’s
Did you know about the kissing bug in Arizona? If so, have you ever seen one? What other dangerous insects should Arizonans keep an eye out for this summer? Let us know!