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Bed Bug Infestations On The Rise And Here to Stay

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to a recent report, bed bug infestations are on the rise. Getting rid of the insects is a challenge, if not downright impossible, indicating that bed bugs might be here to stay.

Researchers Jerome Goddard, Ph.D., of Mississippi State University, and Richard deShazo, M.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center looked at how to get rid of bed bugs, and the implication of increasing infestations on human health, summarizing their findings in JAMA, April 1. The good news is the scientists found that bed bugs rarely cause a reaction, and minimally put humans at risk for communicable disease. Forty reported cases were found in 53 articles linking bed bugs to disease, though systemic allergic reactions and skin complications are possible if bed bugs bite.

The review of reports showed increasing rates of bed bug infestation in homes, dorms, hotels, apartments and hospitals since 1980. Unfortunately, little can be done to get rid of bed bugs. The researchers believe that bed bugs are becoming more prevalent because of increased travel, immigration, insecticide resistance, and changes in pest control practices.

The researchers explain there is no treatment that is proven to get rid of bed bugs. Bites that provoke severe reactions are treated symptomatically, but no evidence-based protocols have been established to treat bed bug bites.

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Treatments used include antihistamines for itching, steroid creams, and adrenalin injections if severe allergic reaction occurs. Fortunately, most bed bug lesions resolve within one week. The bite of a bed bug causes an itchy, red, raised bump on the surface of the skin. Allergic reactions to bed bug bites include hives, whelps or wheals on the skin, small swollen areas that contain pus, and blistering.

The authors write, "Bed bugs are likely to be more problematic in the future due to travel, immigration, and insecticide resistance." Cats and dogs can also carry bedbugs into the home.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Bedbugs inject an anticoagulant to keep your blood flowing as they suck, along with a numbing agent to keep you from feeling them when they're at work”. In other words, bed bugs are tiny little red bloodsuckers, and they thrive in all climates.

It looks like bed bugs might be here to stay - unless someone finds a recipe for bed bug repellant.

JAMA. 2009; 301[13]:1358-1366
Resource: Mayo Clinic