RALEIGH, N.C. — The Triatominae bug, known as the "kissing bug" because it can feed on the blood of mammals, is native to North Carolina and much of the southern and middle United States, North Carolina State University entomologists said.
The bug has raised concern because it can be a host to a parasite that causes the potentially deadly Chagas disease, Dr. Matt Bertone of North Carolina State University's Plant Disease and Insect Clinic said.
Each year, millions of people are diagnosed with Chagas disease, but the cases are concentrated in South and Central America. Most people who are diagnosed with the disease in the United States contract it abroad.
"In North Carolina, you have almost no chance of contracting the disease from these native bugs," Bertone said.
Resource: Learn more about "kissing bugs" from Dr. Matt Bertone
Bertone said at least two species of the bug are found in the state, but humans are not likely to come in contact with the bug because it is nocturnal. They also typically feed on mammals like raccoons, opossums and woodrats.
North Carolina State professor and specialist Dr. Michael Waldvogel shared several ways to keep the bugs out of homes for people who live in rural areas where there are more mammals:
- Repair cracks in windows and doors
- Turn off lights around your home at night
- Pesticides will not help to deter the bug
- Remove things like wood and leaf piles near your home
Both professors say the measures are most likely unnecessary.
"Although these preventive measures will help reduce the chances of coming into contact with kissing bugs, in reality it is very unlikely you would ever come into contact with one of these insects anyway," Bertone said.
Adult "kissing bugs" are about 1 inch long with black and orange or red stripes on the abdomen and thorax. They are somewhat flat when they have not fed.
If you think you've spotted one, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says to trap the bug in a container without touching it. Fill the container with rubbing alcohol or freeze the bug. Take the bug to your county cooperative extension center, health department or university lab.
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