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Dangerous, blood-sucking kissing bug found in Delaware

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the kissing bug has made its first confirmed appearance in the state of Delaware. Also known as Triatoma sanguisuga, the kissing bug often carries a parasite that causes the potentially deadly Chagas disease.

The CDC reports that a family in Kent County contacted the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) and the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) last summer to help identify a bug that had bitten a child on the face.

The insect was identified by the DDA as Triatoma sanguisuga, a blood-sucking insect that feeds on mammals. These bugs are notorious for biting humans on the face, which has earned them the name “kissing bug.”

After the CDC confirmed its identity, the specimen tested negative for the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. Furthermore, the girl who was bitten did not suffer any adverse effects.

Last week, the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services announced that “there is not currently a threat to the public” because there is a low risk of infection and exposure. Chagas disease, which can cause serious cardiac and gastrointestinal complications, has been rarely contracted in the United States.

On the other hand, the CDC estimates that approximately 300,000 Americans unknowingly have Chagas disease with symptoms that have not yet emerged, and most of them were infected with T. cruzi in Latin America. The health protection agency says that the likelihood of human T. cruzi infection from contact with a triatomine bug in the United States is low, even when the bug is infected.

Dr. Jim Fredericks is the chief entomologist at the National Pest Management Association. While he acknowledged that the pest should not be ignored, he also said the public should not panic about the sighting.

“This particular species of kissing bug has a broad distribution range in the United States – I wasn’t surprised to hear that it was found in Delaware, I was actually more surprised that this was the first time it was reported,” Dr. Fredericks told Delaware State News.

“Its current range runs from Pennsylvania down to Florida and all the way west to Texas. We can’t say for certain, but I speculate that the kissing bug isn’t a ‘new’ arrival to Delaware and that the one that was found isn’t the only one. Having them in Pennsylvania and Maryland, there’s just no reason to think they wouldn’t be in Delaware.”

Dr. Fredericks also explained that the kissing bug species identified in Delaware is a “poor host” for the disease-causing parasite T. cruzi.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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