‘Kissing’ bug disease moving north from Texas
OKLAHOMA CITY — Experts say with a changing climate, Oklahoma could be hearing a lot more about the kissing bug. They used to be limited to South America and then Mexico but now, they’ve arrived in Texas.
Amanda Franson had never heard or seen of the Kissing bug, also known as the Assassin bug. When I showed her son Austin a picture, he knew exactly what it was.
“I have this bug book about true bugs,” said Austin Green. “It said something about assassin bugs that kind of look like those but their skinnier.”
Austin knows that over time the bug can kill you, and University of Oklahoma professor Ken Hobson says we need to know more about it also.
“We really don’t have very much information on all of the locations that they’re in,” says Hobson. “This is a developing area of concern where we really need more information.”
The kissing bug attacks at night, biting the mouth and eye area.
“As we sleep at night we’re warm and it’s just an easy place to get a meal,” says Hobson. “Then when we wake up in the morning it’s like what was that, and you’ve got a little wound there.”
It could be decades before a host sees any symptoms of the disease carried by the “Kissing” bug.
“Globally there’s probably around 11 million people that carry Chagas disease,” says Hobson. “It’s one of the major diseases on the planet.”
So far, this pest hasn’t been a problem in the United States, but the kissing bug could eventually make its way into Oklahoma.
“I don’t foresee in Oklahoma that there’s going to be any kind of massive invasion,” says Hobson. “It’s certainly possible that with movements of people from Texas, from Arizona, farm workers, military personnel, folks just changing location that could easily bring up populations of the insect.”
If you’ve seen something that looks like the “Kissing” bug, Professor Hobson says it’s probably one of the bug’s close relatives, but nothing to worry about.
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