Triatomine bug ("kissing bug") occurrence by state (CDC)
NEW JERSEY (FOX5NY.COM) - So-called kissing bugs have a deceiving name because they have no love for you.
"The classic example is when you're bitten by this, you develop this large swelling area around the bite site that lasts for a while," Dr. Matthew Knight of Knight Dermatology Institute said.
Health officials say these blood-sucking insects are typically found in Mexico, Central America, and South America, but they've made their way to the United States. They can spread a potentially deadly illness known as the Chagas disease.
The disease is spread through the bug's feces, which can carry the parasite. While feeding on a person, the bug defecates on the person's skin, according to Lyle Buss of the University of Florida. The person then scratches the bite and inadvertently rubs the feces into the wound.
The CDC has said that 22 states have reported having the kissing bug. While the bug has not been officially reported in New Jersey the CDC's tracking map has labeled the state as a "potential" for the bug.
"The question is as temperatures warm will the kissing bugs change their areas where they're found and become more prevalent in other areas of the United States," entomologist Jeffery White said.
About 300,000 people in the United States have been infected with the organism that the bug carries, according to the American Heart Association. Although 70 percent of the people infected never develop any symptoms, those that do can develop heart disease including heart failure, strokes, and cardiac arrest.
You can prevent the kissing bugs from entering your home by sealing cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors, according to the CDC.