Blood-sucking 'kissing bug' moving north, possibly in Michigan

Posted at 6:31 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 18:31:25-04

(WXYZ) — The 'kissing bug' is on the move and is possibly already establishing itself in Michigan. The blood-sucker carries the third most common parasitic disease in the world but is most often associated with warmer climates in Central and South America, or in southern U.S. states like Texas and Arizona.

But that's changing.

"It seems to be moving north. The more they look, the more they’re finding it," said Glen Hood, biologist and evolutionary ecologist at Wayne State University.

Recently, the CDC confirmed a case in Delaware's Kent county, just 6 months after the CDC reported the bug was also found in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Hood says we have climate change to thank -- as winters get shorter, and summers get hotter. It's all creating the ideal environment for the bug to migrate north.

But why is it called the kissing bug?

"What they do is pierce the skin and suck blood up, but they like to feed of soft tissue because it’s easier for them to pierce so there’s a lot of observations of them feeding on the lips of humans," said Hood.

And they do it without you knowing while you sleep. Once they feed, they defecate. When you wake up the open wound itches. When you itch, you may move the fecal matter into your wound and infect yourself with a potentially deadly parasitic disease called Chagas, which can lead to serious cardiac and gastro-intestinal complications.

The kissing bugs are most commonly found under porches, in piles of wood, or in outdoor dog houses. Experts recommend cleaning those areas regularly. Also, clean cat and dog indoor beds regularly. To prevent outdoor dogs from getting exposed, consider allowing them to sleep inside at night. To prevent them from entering your home, seal any gaps around your windows and doors. Spray insecticide applications on the outside property.