Blood-Sucking 'Kissing Bug' Spreading Through America

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that last year, a young girl in Delaware was bitten on the face by a blood-sucking insect known as a "kissing bug." The Triatoma sanguisuga received the nickname because the insects like to bite people around their lips. Officials say that it is the first time in the state's history that they have been able to identify the bug.

While the insect's bite is not likely to cause much harm, it can spread a parasite that causes Chagas disease. Chagas disease can develop into a severe chronic condition if it is left untreated. The initial symptoms, which can last for months, include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.

According to the CDC, the symptoms are similar to other illnesses and can lead to people being misdiagnosed. The chronic stage of the disease can last for decades and cause heart and gastrointestinal problems.

Authorities determined that the insect that bit the young girl was not carrying the parasite and she did not become sick after getting bitten.

The CDC says the bugs, which come from South and Central America, have been identified in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The bugs tend to hide in cracks and crevices in wood and concrete during the day and come out at night to feed.

Photo: CDC, courtesy of James Gathany

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