The kissing bug kills over 10,000 people every year & is prominent throughout most of the United States. Here's what you should know if you ever encounter one.
What is it?
The kissing bug, or triatomine, is a deadly, bloodsucking insect ranging from 14-24 mm in length, or the size of a penny. They're usually brown or black and feed on mammals such as humans, dogs, and raccoons. They carry a very lethal parasite called Chagas, which is extremely dangerous to humans.
Where is it located?
The kissing bug is indigenous to Central & South America, but is also found throughout the entire southern half of the United States. They're rarely seen during the day, but come out in search for blood at night when host mammals are usually asleep and the air is cooler.
How will it kill you?
The kissing bug carries a parasite called Chagas, which leads to Chagas disease when bit. This disease affects 7-8 million people & kills 12,500 people annually. Initial infection may first go unnoticed, but after a few weeks the first symptoms start appearing such as fever, body aches, & vomiting as well as swollen glands and an enlargement of the liver or spleen. It then moves on to damage your heart, nervous system, & digestive system. Death occurs when the disease leads to cell death and heart muscle damage, as seen here. Dying from a kissing bug bite is listed as one of the 1,000 worst ways to die.
How to survive:
Kissing bugs are attracted by lights, body heat, and carbon dioxide exhaled by people. So the best way to prevent a bite is to keep them from entering your home by closing exterior doors tightly and repairing any cracks or damaged screens on windows or crawlspaces. Once bit, there is no vaccine for Chagas disease, although the use of antiparasitic treatment during the early stages of infection has proven to be effective. In the later, chronic stages when the disease has started affecting the heart, the use of pacemakers and medications for irregular heartbeats will be necessary; and in extreme cases, victims must undergo heart transplantation surgery.
So which character in the 1945 Alfred Hitchcock film "Spellbound" is referred to as the "Kissing Bug"?
Constance Petersen was referred to as the Kissing Bug for a scene in which she entered a club in someone's dream & proceeded to kiss some men seated at a table.