Until yesterday I thought “kissing bug” referred to mononucleosis. You know…MONO? The subject of high school rumors about why the head cheerleader missed a week of school? Yeah, it’s not that. Nor is it herpes simplex 1.

Here’s what the Kissing Bug looks like.

Rachel Curtis-Robles
Rachel Curtis-Robles

That, friends, is an insect officially known at a triatomine. If you, like I, HAVEN’T hear of it there’s a reason. Until very recently these bugs were only found in Southern Mexico, Central America and South America. Recently the insects have been seen in U.S. states that share a border with Mexico.

You can read what an El Paso person posted recently on Facebook here.

Here are some basic facts:

Triatomines usually bite on the face, which is how they acquired the name “The Kissing Bug”.
Kissing bugs are carriers of a parasite that causes Chagas Disease.
After biting, they then defecate into the bite wound. This is how the parasite enters the bloodstream.
Chagas disease can, if left untreated, result in chronic heart ailments included heart failure.
It’s believed that 50% of Kissing Bugs carry Chagas Disease.
About a third of people who contract Chagas will develop chronic heart disease as a result.
GOOD NEWS! Chagas can be treated if it is caught early.
BAD NEWS! It hardly ever IS caught early because most people have never heard of it and don’t recognize the symptoms.

The symptoms are: fever, lethargy and aches. So, the same symptoms as a cold or the flu. The difference is you get over the flu in a week and Chagas could give you permanent heart disease.

Non-flulike syptoms include: rashes, swollen glands and a bump around the bite.
Your pets can also get the disease from the Kissing Bugs.

So, awareness is the key here. That’s why I’m including this link to a website run by Texas A&M who seem to be on the cutting edge of this emerging threat. Please, please, please check it out. It has pictures of the bugs and recommendations of what to do if you find them in your house, yard or neighborhood. One suggestion to our federal government: I don’t know if that wall is ever going to be built but…would you consider a giant screen door instead?

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