KISS OF DEATH?
KISSING BUGS HYSTERIA
A “newspaper epidemic” was the best description of the wave of panic across the northeast United States in 1899. On 20 June, James McElhone of
The Washington Post claimed ‘kissing bugs’ – so-called for biting people on the lips – posed a plague-like danger. Suddenly, every mark and blemish on the skin looked like a life-threatening bite and, with no credible signs of any bugs, the tales grew increasingly wild. An alleged sufferer claimed to have seen a kissing bug with a head like a rat and two fangs.