Entomologist: Deadly kissing bugs are in S.C. - FOX Carolina 21

Entomologist: Deadly kissing bugs are in S.C.

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Triatomine bugs are ugly little bugs, about the size of a penny, that suck blood from hosts in order to survive.

You may have heard them referred to as Kissing Bugs, a name given to them from their tendency to bite people’s faces while they sleep.

Peter Adler, a professor of entomology at Clemson University, says they’re all around us.

Adler says there are several species of kissing bugs in the Upstate. Some, though not all, can carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease, which if left untreated can be deadly, he says.

“When the bug defecates as it’s feeding, those disease organisms are in the fecal material. The fecal material can get into the wound where the bug was feeding and affect the host that way,” Adler says .

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say Chagas disease is most prevalent in Central and South America, where people live in poor housing conditions. In the U.S. the CDC says there are 300,000 cases of Chagas, but says many acquired the disease while in other countries.

Although despite some headlines, in an email to FOX Carolina the CDC says they, “have not received any reports of local transmission to humans in Georgia. Currently, Chagas disease is only reportable in 5 states: Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Texas.”

Adler adds that kissing bugs are not new to our area and being infected by one here would be rare.

“We really don’t have a reason to worry. They're common around here, they're feeding on wild hosts and yet we experience no problems,” says Adler.

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