NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – It’s commonly called the “kissing bug,” but don’t confuse the name with something you can catch from smooching your partner.
A so called kiss or light bite on the face from this insect can be even scarier, reports CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
“They’re silent killers,” warns Dr. Vivian Bellofatto of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
Bellofatto has been studying the parasite found inside the disease carrying insects for three decades.
“They look like your average beetle, but their heads are small, cone-shaped,” she said. “Nice yellow bars on the side of their wings.”
For years they were in Central and Latin America, then places like California and Texas, but as the weather has gotten warmer they’ve moved farther north.
These kissing bugs are now in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and probably in New Jersey as well
Because they like to hang out in dark spaces like lumber and the crevices of homes, they usually attack when you’re asleep.
A bite by a bug carrying a certain parasite can lead to chagas disease. The first sign: swelling around the bite, followed by fever and exhaustion that lasts for weeks. Years later the infection can lead to chronic heart disease.
There have been 300,000 infections throughout the United States so far, but none in our area – yet.
If you do come across one of these kissing bugs, Bellofatto says don’t touch it with bare hands. Put on some gloves or grab some tweezers. Put the bug in a plastic bag and bring it to your local health department.
If you think you’ve been bitten by a kissing bug, doctors say a blood test can confirm the infection and there are treatments available if you catch it early.