The 1899 United States Kissing Bug Epidemic

Accessing the historical archives that were available online for five different urban newspapers, we searched for newspaper articles that included the key words “kissing bug” and were published between January 1, 1899, and December 31, 1899. What we unearthed was an unexpected “outbreak” of kissing bug assaults that were reported in newspapers across the nation. Ten years before Carlos Chagas described Chagas disease (in 1909), the US experienced a multi-city hysteria caused by the routine, nightly bites of the “kissing bug” that resulted in numerous hospitalizations and even a few deaths.

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