Kissing bugs can carry a disease-causing parasite, and they have a thing for biting human faces.

By Renee Cherry
kissing bug
Credit: Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The CDC has confirmed that a girl in Delaware was bitten by a kissing bug. No, that's not another name for "love bug." It's a literal bug that likes to bite humans' faces and can transmit a deadly parasite.

The girl had been minding her own business and watching TV in July when a bug bit her face. Her family then contacted the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) and Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) for assistance in identifying the insect, as they were concerned about "possible disease transmission," even though the girl hadn't exhibited any strange symptoms, according to the CDC. Once the DPH and DDA investigated the situation, they confirmed that the bug was a triatoma sanguisuga (AKA a kissing bug).

Similar to mosquitos, kissing bugs like to feed on human blood, but for the most part, they don't cause major harm. Their saliva can trigger an allergic reaction in some people, according to the CDC. In addition, sometimes they'll carry a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which can be passed on to the person that they bite. T. cruzi causes Chagas disease (casually referred to as "the kissing bug disease"), which can lead to mild liver and spleen enlargement, swollen glands, and swelling at the bite site, according to the CDC. Less common, potentially deadly symptoms include severe inflammation, and heart and gastrointestinal complications. (Related: The Gross Parasite Found In Swimming Pools)

picture of the kissing bug
Kissing bug
| Credit: CDC

Photo: CDC

No need to sound the alarm, though—the CDC is reporting a single bite, not a kissing bug disease outbreak. While kissing bugs can be found in the U.S., only a few cases of Chagas disease from contact with the bugs have ever been reported here. In the case of the Delaware girl, tests revealed that the bug had been T. cruzi-free. Even when a bug is infected, the likelihood that it will pass on T. cruzi is low, according to the report. That's because you can only get infected with the parasite if the kissing bug poops on you, and even then, the feces has to enter the bite wound or another opening to cause any potential harm. (Related: Researchers Confirm the First Known Case of a Human Infected with the Keystone Virus)

Rest assured, you can take precautions to lower your odds of getting bitten by a kissing bug. First, you can familiarize yourself with what the kissing bug looks like (pictured above), and take a look at a range map of where they're found in the U.S. so you'll know one if you see it. The CDC recommends inspecting and sealing the places where these bugs might hide in a home: cracks around windows, air conditioners, walls, roofs, etc. (Yes, the bug does fly.) But don't worry—your chances of getting infected by one of these pests is low, according to the CDC.


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