This Terrifying Bug Is Making Its Way To The U.S.

Photo: John Cancalosi/Alamy Stock Photo.
It's almost Thanksgiving, which means you'll want some buzzy topics for the dinner table that won't cause any permanent family rifts. This year, skip politics and religion and inform your loved ones about a straight-out-of-a-horror-movie insect that has been seen in at least three states — a bug that can infect you with its poop.

The adorably (and incredibly misleadingly) named "kissing bugs," or Triatomine bugs, have been spotted in Georgia, Texas, and Alabama. Creepy enough just to look at, these critters can also carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease; the acute phase of this illness mimics the flu and, if left untreated, can progress to intestinal or even potentially life-threatening cardiac problems.

Possibly even more troubling than the disease itself is how it's passed from the bug to human hosts. As the CDC explains, "The bug generally defecates on or near a person while it is feeding on his or her blood, generally when the person is sleeping. Transmission occurs when fecal material gets rubbed into the bite wound or into a mucous membrane (for example, the eye or mouth), and the parasite enters the body."

Even if the bug isn't carrying the parasite (the CDC notes there's a low risk of catching it from a bug found in the U.S.), there's the possibility of a kissing-bug bite promoting an allergic reaction, which could result in general uncomfortable swelling and itchiness, or could be as severe as to cause anaphylactic shock. So be thankful that you're most likely not in any danger from these disgusting creatures — even if you're not so thankful that the image of a poop-rubbing bug will now be stuck in your brain for weeks.

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