'Kissing bugs’ live in Louisiana, but few reported cases of them spreading disease

Updated: May. 1, 2019 at 6:39 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Louisiana is no stranger when it comes to bugs. Among the insects that live here is a“kissing bug" - not to be confused with the “love bug."

This “kissing bug” - Triatomine sanguisuga - carries a parasite which can develop into the potentially deadly disease Chagas, said Dr. Timothy Haman, an infectious disease physician.

However, Haman said, while the bug may live here, there has never been a report of Chagas here in Southwest Louisiana.

Haman says the bug is nocturnal and comes out at night, normally biting people in the face.

Their method of spreading disease is disgusting.

“Those bugs host the parasite and can bite you and it can spread the parasite, that’s what causes the disease called Chagas disease,” Hamon Said. “They bite, then leave their feces and then most people will scratch it because it’s itchy and then end up infecting yourself.”

“Kissing bugs” have made headlines recently after a case was reported of a girl being bitten while watching TV in her bedroom in Delaware. It was the first confirmed case of the bug in Delaware.

The bugs are more common in the southern US, Central America and Southern America.

Even with the bugs in Louisiana, Haman says there’s little cause for worry.

According to information from the Louisiana Department of Health, Louisiana has only 13 confirmed cases of Chagas on record - and only one of those showed symptoms. Only eight were proven to have been acquired in Louisiana, while the others may have been acquired outside of Louisiana.

“I wouldn’t say that there is really much of a threat here in Louisiana," Haman said. “I think it’s important for people to at least think about, but it’s not something the public at large needs to be concerned about. I’m not losing any sleep over this.”

Haman said he’s more worried about mosquitoes, the West Nile Virus, the flu and people not getting their measles vaccination.

The disease is more common in areas of the world where housing may allow for more bugs to get indoors.

Haman says only a certain percentage of the bugs actually carry the parasite, but people infected with Chagas disease may not know it because it’s normally asymptomatic.

"Ultimately in some people it may never cause a problem but in some people it can cause heart problems and in some people it can cause gastrointestinal problems," Haman said.

Copyright 2019 KPLC. All rights reserved.