This Kissing Bug gets its innocuous names for its habit of biting humans on and around the lips. Typically found in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America. kissing bugs are capable of carrying a parasite that causes Chagas disease, (see 2/22/13 post).

While cases have been extremely rare in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified it for “public health action.” In a recent study the CDC’s EmergingInfectious Diseases journal found that nearly 40 percent of kissing bugs collected in California and Arizona had recently fed on human blood. Researchers said the findings were unexpected because the 11 species of kissing bugs found in the United States were not known to feed on people.

These bugs feed on blood at night, generally from small mammals and birds but as noted above, sometimes humans as well.  The nymphs require a blood meal to support their growth and maturation. The insect’s feces can contain the protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi which causes Chagas disease. Contact with infected feces, through an open wound, or through the eyes or mouth, can result in disease transmission.

Most people who are bitten by a kissing bug do not recall the bite and even fewer show any type of reaction.  Some, with particular skin sensitivities or allergic reactions to the bug’s saliva, will exhibit signs of itching and site swelling.