Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease


kissing_bugs
Photos via CDC

Note: The Health Department does not test kissing bugs. If you catch bugs you suspect are kissing bugs, contact the CDC's Division of Parasitic Disease and Malaria (parasites@cdc.gov) or call the MU Extension in Greene County at 417-881-8908.

 Chagas Disease

Chagas disease is caused by the parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi. Symptoms include:
  • Acute Phase: swelling at the site of the bug bite, fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting.
  • Chronic Phase: cardiac complications, intestinal complications.
  • There is anti-parasitic treatment available through the CDC.
Chagas disease is transmitted to humans and animals via the kissing bug; however, transmission of Chagas disease to a human is not easy. In fact, it is estimated that there is only 1 case of Chagas for every 900 – 4,000 contacts w/ infected kissing bugs.
  • The parasite is found in bug feces.
  • The kissing bug defecates while feeding.
  • Feces can get rubbed into the wound or into a mucous membrane leading to infection.
  • Chagas disease is NOT transmitted person-to-person.
Kissing Bugs
The likelihood of getting Chagas disease from a kissing bug in the United States is low, even if the bug is infected.
  • People can have allergic reactions to the bite of a kissing bug.
  • Symptoms include redness and swelling.
  • An allergic reaction does not mean you have Chagas disease.
Kissing bugs can be found outdoors:
  • Beneath porches.
  • Between rocky structures.
  • Under cement.
  • In wood, brush piles, or beneath bark.
  • In rodent nests or animal burrows.
  • In dog houses or kennels.
  • In chicken coops or houses.
If you catch bugs they suspect are kissing bugs, contact CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria (parasites@cdc.gov) or the MU Extension in Greene County (417-881-8909) for species identification or T. cruzi testing.