Do NOT try to make out with the 'kissing bug'

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Here's a smooch you'll probably want to avoid this winter: A breed of insect known as the "kissing bug" is invading the U.S. and spreading a potentially deadly disease.


The insects, which are formally known as triatomine bugs, carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease. It's a condition that, according to the CDC, causes serious heart and stomach illnesses and can be fatal, though you may not even know you have the disease until it's in an advanced state.

Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, they are called kissing bugs for the following horrifying reason:

The insect is called the "kissing bug" because it generally bites people on their faces and lips at night.

How the kissing bug spreads Chagas disease is so gross that I am refraining from giving you the CDC's description, but basically, after it bites, it leaves a waste product that, when you scratch the bite, gets in your blood stream.

An estimated 300,000 U.S. residents have Chagas disease, though most acquired it on the bugs’ home turf in Central and South America.  A rash of Chagas cases in dogs has been attributed to the bugs, however.

Luckily, the CDC says the chances of getting Chargas disease in the U.S. are low. That said, the kissing bugs are now pretty much everywhere.

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

The most recent spottings have been reported in Georgia, Texas, and Alabama. They're coming in from Central and South America, the CDC says.

If you see what you think might be a kissing bug, do not attempt to swat it — they are tough little monsters. Instead, the CDC suggests capturing it in a jar, then trying to drown it in rubbing alcohol or freezing it.


The kisisng bug: Less cute than it sounds!

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.