Cincinnati July 12, 2019
A Parasitic Bug Has Been Spotted Throughout Cincinnati And Its Bite Can Be Deadly
We love animals here in Cincinnati, from our precious Fiona and baby giraffes that seem to pop up every couple of years to our University of Cincinnati Bearcat. As much as we love these creatures, we’re definitely not fond of the news that our area has reported potentially deadly parasite-carrying bugs known and Triatomine Bugs. Colloquially called “Kissing Bugs,” these tiny insects have spread throughout the country, and since its bite can be deadly, it is important to know what to look for and how to react if you find one.
It's easy to love animals of all sorts in Cincinnati thanks in part to our fantastic zoo.
The Cincinnati Zoo is even home to the "World of the Insect" exhibit, where you can get up close and personal with a variety of bugs. That's all well and good
inside a zoo, but most people don't enjoy finding insects in their house or even worse, crawling on their skin.
While these insects are more commonly found in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America, reports from the last few years show that that their numbers have grown all around the US. While there is no need to panic if you do happen to find one, you should still take precautions and know what to do if you come across a Kissing Bug.
As you can see from the map below, the Triatomine Bug can now be found in many states throughout the U.S.
The bugs pose a bigger threat in areas with poor housing conditions, but that doesn't mean they can't find their way into your home or yard, no matter where you live. Triatomines are potentially harmful to humans because they can carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease.
If you’re wondering why these insects are called "Kissing Bugs," we’re warning you now - it’s creepy enough to make your skin crawl.
Kissing Bugs feed on blood and often bite people on the face and near the mouth. A bite won’t necessarily infect you, as there are several factors that influence the transmission of the Chagas parasite (
Trypanosoma cruzi). Obviously, the Kissing Bug must already be a carrier of the parasite when it bites you, and the parasite isn’t actually transmitted via bites; the Kissing Bug has to defecate on the bite site for the Chagas parasite to infect you.
While it is unlikely that you will be infected in this manner, you'll want to know what to look for and how to react if you find a Kissing Bug or think you've been bitten.
If you are bitten and believe it to be from a Kissing Bug, you'll want to consult your doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms of Chagas disease are initially mild and easy to overlook. You may have a fever, headaches, muscle aches, nausea, and swelling around the bite site and lymph nodes - all of which are common symptoms for many unrelated illnesses. The one identifying symptom unique to Chagas disease is the swollen eyelids, which occurs if the parasite was unknowingly rubbed into your eye. Your doctor will likely prescribe an anti-parasitic medication, which is most effective when taken in the early stages of the disease.
It is also possible to have allergic reactions to these bugs, so if you are allergic to other insect bites or stings, seek medical attention.
Luckily, the vast majority of people (about 90%) who show early Chagas symptoms will see them fade after a few weeks, especially when treated quickly; however, Chagas is a chronic disease, and an untreated infection may cause further health complications throughout a lifetime. Of the remaining 10% of those who contract Chagas disease, 60-80% will never experience future symptoms, but 20-40% will likely develop life-threatening heart conditions and/or digestive disorders later in life.
Kissing Bugs are not common in our region, but reports suggest their population is growing.
If you happen to find one, do
not squash it, as this can expose you to any parasites it may be carrying. Try to trap it in a container and follow the instructions on the CDC website, linked below.
These penny-sized bugs seem harmless enough, and they typically are just that, but in the rare case you are bitten or find one in your house or on your property, now you know how to be prepared.
The Triatomine Bug has spread through most of our country and may carry a potentially deadly parasite, but it’s important to remember there is no reason to panic, even though they have been spotted in our area. Just keep in mind what to do if you come across one and follow the guidelines outlined on the CDC website
Have you seen one of these creepy crawlers? Let us know in the comments!
And for a few animal encounters in Cincinnati that you would actually enjoy, check out our previous article