'Kissing bug' can lead to dangerous parasite infection

(Image Courtesy: MGN Online / Wikimedia / CDC / World Health Organization)

A rare, parasitic disease caused by a bug dubbed 'the kissing bug' is spreading across the country, with a case now reported in Massachusetts.

That's according to the Centers for Disease Control.

While the bug is not commonly found in the northeast, Chagas disease can cause some severe symptoms.

"It's pretty gross," said Natasha Wright with Braman Termite and Pest Elimination. It's called 'the kissing bug' and gets its name because it usually bites around the mouth or eyes.

Wright told Western Mass News that it's similar to a bed bug and it usually bites you at night.

"The disease they transmit is called Chagas disease and how that is transmitted is not actually through the saliva of the bug. The bug bites you let’s say around your mouth. Usually, it's when you’re sleeping because they're nocturnal if you're camping in the woods somewhere. It defecates at the same time. In the fecal material is where you get that parasite. so the sleeping person will usually scratch the wound because it's itchy and scratch the parasite into that open wound," Wright added.

Wright says there are 11 species of the bug and they're about an inch long. She said that the bug is usually dormant during the day and is typically found in southern states, but is now making its way up to the northeast.

"Unless you are camping in the woods or sleeping outside next to your dog kennel, it's not going to be a problem. They don't breed inside or anything like that," Wright noted.

Chagas disease has several common symptoms that can include: Fever Fatigue Body aches Headache Rash"These symptoms last a couple weeks to a couple months, but then go away on their own. About 30 percent of people who have the acute symptoms will have chronic symptoms," Wright explained.

Wright said that because the bug is rare, a normal pesticide spray could prevent it. but offers these tips as well.

"If you're camping, I'd suggest the use of some bed net to keep the bugs away from happening. Repellent like DEET will keep them off your body too," Wright said.

It's unknown where in Massachusetts the case was reported, but doctors said that Chagas cannot be spread from human-to-human through normal contact.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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