DENVER — The Coloradoan reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the “kissing bug,” or Triatoma sanguisuga, has been sighted in Colorado after making its way into the U.S. from South and Central America.
The bugs can carry a deadly disease called Chagas that can be transferred to humans through a simple bite.
Health officials, doctors and insect specialists have all told the FOX31 Problem Solvers that they don’t see the sighting of the bug as a huge threat.
The insect is nicknamed for biting people around their mouths. While the bite is often painless, the bugs can spread parasites through their feces.
“If they’re feeding around the face, they might defecate and their feces might contain the Chagas disease and that’s how it would infect the human,” said Eric Knutson with the Colorado Museum of Nature and Science.
Dr. Andres Henao-Martinez with CU Anschutz Medical Campus said there have been Chagas disease patients in Colorado. Henao-Martinez specializes in infectious diseases and says every patient he’s treated with Chagas has acquired it in a foreign country but was treated in the U.S.
“About 10 years can pass by until people develop some symptoms,” Henao-Martinez said. “People get heart failure or arrhythmias and people can actually die suddenly because of heart disease from this condition.”
Still, many experts do not see the bug as an imminent threat to Coloradans, especially because the insects spotted in Colorado are not believed to be the ones that carry Chagas.
“I definitely think that’s its been hyped up quite a bite,” Knutson said.
The kissing bugs like to live in wooded areas. They’re about one inch long. If you do think you have Chagas, doctors say to get tested and get treatment.