COCKE COUNTY (WATE) -- An insect known as the "Kissing Bug" is causing quite a stir in Cocke County. It's a blood sucking insect that can cause life-threatening reactions in rare cases.
The bug can be more dangerous than its name implies. Just ask Cocke County resident David Williams. "I am highly allergic and this is what caused me to be hospitalized."
In recent months, Williams says he has been bitten by the Kissing Bug twice. "The first bite that I got, I had a blood infection, and I had to go through anti-biotic treatment. I was sick for a few weeks."
Of the 130 known species, some can carry a deadly parasite called Chagas. The bugs live primarily in South America, but some varieties make their home in the southern portion of the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control tells 6 News it's tested Williams' bugs and found they don't carry the dangerous parasite.
That's a relief for this father of two, but he still wants people to be on guard. "I am trying to make people aware, so that nobody has to go through what I have had to go through."
To protect yourself from the Kissing Bug, experts recommend shaking your linens every night before you go to bed because the bugs like to hide out in dark, warm places.
Also, if you are going to be in the outdoors, try using a DEET-based mosquito repellent. These repellents work to fight off Kissing Bugs in the same way they do for mosquitoes.
In some rare cases in the U.S. the Kissing Bugs have been caught carrying the deadly disease called Chagas. The disease is usually slow to spread, but in the long run it can lead to heart failure.
Across the U.S., only six known cases have been reported where people died. That includes one fatal case in Tennessee.
The disease is widespread in Mexico, Central and South America where it kills close to 21,000 people a year.