They are called Triatomine Bugs, and they are responsible for infecting 8 million people in South America and Mexico. Most people who are infected are unaware that they are infected. This is too bad considering that the disease that these bugs transmit is often life threatening, and always lifelong if the disease is not treated within a short amount of time after transmission. As if Mexico in particular did not have enough problems already, the majority of cases are found in poor regions of Mexico.
These bugs will feed off of people’s faces in the middle of the night, which is why they are called by another name–kissing bugs. The disease is not transmitted through their bite; rather the kissing bug’s feces carry the disease. However, the bug’s bite often causes a slight open wound, in which the infected feces can reach the bloodstream. In many cases, according the CDC, the bugs will defecate in an area on a human where mucous membranes are located, which will easily carry the disease into a human’s bloodstream.
Despite a few cases being reported in the United States, the disease is not endemic to the USA, and let’s hope it stays that way. Luckily, for most of us, we do not live in houses made out of mud and straw, which is where these guys like to hang out. If you plan on traveling to Mexico or South America be sure not to forget about the threat these bugs pose, as there are no available vaccines to extinguish the disease from your system once you have it. The best you can do is take preventative measures with bug-spray. And to think that most of us have never heard of this disease!
Have you ever heard of kissing bugs? Do you know anyone who has been infected by them? Are making sure to wear your insect repellent this summer?