Texas health officials have reported a rise in “kissing bug” related infections across the state.
So far, at least 12 people have been diagnosed with Chagas disease, an infection caused after receiving a bite from the insects. The disease comes from a parasite carried by the kissing bugs, which can cause potentially fatal heart and digestive problems to those who are infected. The number of these insects, which are indigenous to Central and South America, has rapidly increased in recent months.
“We don’t want people to panic. They just need to be aware of the possibility of the existence of this disease in the area,” Sahotra Sarkar, a professor of integrative biology and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, told USA Today.
According to KXAS, most counties in Texas have reported sightings of the kissing bugs. The insects earned their name due to their tendency of biting human faces and lips at night as they attacked to carbon monoxide emitted from human breath. The CDC says there is currently no approved treatment for the infection.
Although this seems like rather bleak news, researchers believe that the increase in bugs has spawned from a growth in development near where the bugs were already inhabiting. Health officials recommend keeping an eye out for the bugs and keeping your skin covered when outdoors.