Federal health officials say that a parasite-carrying bug whose bite can be fatal in certain rare cases has now been found in South Carolina.
The Center for Disease Control says Triatomine bugs, or the “kissing bug,” are a type of insect that can carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi which can cause Chagas disease. The Atlanta Journal Constitution first reported Monday that Triatomine had been found in Georgia and the Carolinas.
It is possible, though rare, to contract Chagas disease from the feces of a “kissing bug,” according to the CDC. Chagas disease can cause skin lesions, swelling of the lids of one eye, fever, muscle pain, and difficulty in breathing. Transmission of the disease is rare in the United States, being more commonly found in the tropic climates of Latin America. There are no known cases of individuals getting the disease through insect bites in South Carolina.
The CDC estimates around 300,000 people in the U.S. are carrying the disease, with only a small percentage showing complications from it. The prevalence of the disease can be difficult to determine, however, since Chaga is only reportable in Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas.
The “kissing bug” gets its name for biting humans on their lips or eyes, usually while they sleep. The bug generally defecates on or near a person while it is feeding on his or her blood. Transmission occurs when fecal material gets rubbed into the bite wound or into a mucous membrane (for example, the eye or mouth), and the parasite enters the body. If you suspect you have Chagas disease, consult your health care provider.