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Bed bugs are a significant public health concern

2014-01-14 10:30
Suffering in poverty

Bed bugs can be a real threat to your physical and emotional well being. There has been increasing reports of bed bug infestations, primarily where there is poor housing and in low quality hotels, over the years. In order to determine if there has been any credibility to these reports researchers have decided to study the situation.

Researchers discovered statistically significant Cimex lectularius L. (bed bug) hotspots in Philadelphia, reported the Journal of Medical Entomology. The researchers analyzed a comprehensive telephone log of pest infestation reports in order to assess the spatial and temporal trends in bed bug reporting throughout Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Seasonal variations were found from December 2008 to May 2011, with a peak in August and reaching a nadir in February of each year. During this time period there was an increase in bed bug reports at a rate of 4.5 percent per month, or 69.45 percent per year. It is hoped that interventions based on seasonal trends may improve efforts to lower the recent increases in urban bed bug populations.

A new study from Penn Medicine epidemiologists, which investigated four years of bed bug reports to the city of Philadelphia, discovered that infestations have been increasing, These findings point to two possible peak times, in August and February, to strike and eliminate the bed bugs. Michael Z. Levy, PhD, who is an assistant professor in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Penn, said, “There is surprisingly very little known about seasonal trends among bed bug populations.”

Dr. Levy worked on mapping the bed bug hotspots in Philadelphia with a goal of finding more effective ways to control them. He went on to say his research team discovered a steep and significant seasonal cycle in bed bug reporting. They suspected that bed bugs have different levels of mobility which depend on the season, and that their population size may change during the year.

Dr. Levy thinks warm weather could be a factor for migration to other homes and breeding of bed bugs. It is his idea that this cycle may be able to be exploited in order to use these seasonal trends to guide control programs and to help reduce a city’s growing bed bug population. In order to track the spatial and temporal patterns of the bed bugs, Dr. Levy and colleagues, analyzed calls which were made to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Vector Control Services between 2008 and 2012. They then mapped the phone calls to get a clearer picture of the problem in regard to when and where it was happening.

Reports of bed bugs emerged from all over Philadelphia, although south Philadelphia was most affected by the bugs. Between 2008 and 2011 nearly half of all pest infestations which were reported to the city were for bed bugs, for a total of 382. There were another 236 reports of bed bug infestations from September 2011 to June 2012. The finding of a peak in infestations in August and a low in February, has lead to the conclusion that the bed bugs are most likely to move more frequently during warmer months, also with increased development and reproduction happening.

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The researchers now are working to determine whether it is easier to hit the bed bugs when they are at their worst, in the summer months, or whether to wait until their numbers are lower in the winter. Seasonality has become one attribute which can eventually aid control measures. There remain however serious problems in dealing with bed bugs.

Although bed bugs are likely to migrate actively by crawling over short distances, such as between adjacent rooms or houses, it’s also likely they are beginning new infestation hotspots throughout the city by riding on people or personal effects over longer distances. This research is part of a larger, ongoing pilot study in Philadelphia which has a goal of developing safer, cheaper and more effective ways to control bed bugs in an urban setting. New surveillance, tracking and treatment methods of bed bugs are now underway.

Bed bugs are a very significant public health care problem, even though they are not known to transmit disease, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bed bugs are considered blood-sucking ectoparasites, or external parasites, which are similar to head lice, or Pediculus humanus capitis. Even though bed bugs, like head lice, feed on the blood of people, they are not thought to transmit disease. However, body lice are known to transmit several serious diseases.

Bed bugs result in many negative physical health, mental health and economic consequences. People can experience mild to severe allergic reactions to the bites of bed bugs. The effects range from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis, or a severe, whole-body reaction. Secondary infections of the skin, such as impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphanigitis, can also result from bed bug bites. Furthermore, bed bugs may also affect the mental health of people who live in infested homes or who have stayed in infested hotels. There have been reports of anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions from being exposed to bed bugs.

I have heard many people share stories about their concerns about bed bugs. Poor housing and staying in poorly kept hotels appear to be primarily responsible for increasing problems with bed bugs. Clearly, it is therefore safe to make the assumption that poverty has everything to do with the growing bed bug problem. Bed bugs, along with other manifestations of widening poverty, such as homelessness and literal starvation on the streets of the United States along with increased rates of rapes and murders by those made hysterical from these factors, are wake up calls to the establishment to make a genuine commitment to wiping out poverty.

If anyone thinks settling for the evolving welfare state across the United States is a better idea, I suggest they prepare themselves to watch these tragic problems slowly invade where they live too.

The only rational and sustainable answer to these problems is not just the eradication of poverty, but also the generation of a lot more wealth for everyone. Bed bugs are just one aspect of poverty that we may all have to live with someday if the present pathetic direction of a widening split between the wealthy and poor is not fixed in the country. In the meantime at least scientists have discovered a natural remedy for bed bugs, reports EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell. But, remember even natural remedies cost money just like any other interventions.

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Comments

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