Bed bugs are a significant public health concern

Jan 14 2014 - 10:30am
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.

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.



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