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‘Kissing bugs’ detected for first time in Nebraska

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 4:04 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A group of bugs that typically aren’t found in Nebraska showed up last year, and the state and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are warning residents that, despite their moniker, “kissing bugs” are far from lovable.

In fact, they could be carrying a parasite that causes Chagas disease, which, if left untreated, can cause heart and digestion problems.

According to a news release Monday from the state Department of Health and Human Services, during the summer of 2020, entomologists with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and UNL Department of Entomology identified a species of triatomines, or “kissing bugs,” for the first time in the state. The insects typically are found during summer across the southern U.S., in Mexico and in Central and South America. The species found in Nebraska last year was identified as the Eastern blood-sucking conenose, which has been detected as far south as Texas and as far north as Pennsylvania, according to the release.

The main risk to humans is the presence of a parasite that can cause Chagas disease. Although infections aren’t common, DHHS said, 25% of people who are infected develop “serious, chronic disease,” so early detection is important.

Residents who have seen kissing bugs or think they have been bitten by one should contact their doctors about getting tested for Chagas disease, DHHS said.

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