The truth about bed bugs

March 31, 2009 3:19:24 PM PDT
From hotels to dormitories, small towns to cities, there's documented evidence that bed bugs are on the rise, sometimes leaving itchy, red bumps behind on their sleeping victims. But how dangerous are those bites? For a while now, we've known they've arrived in our city. And the studies bear out, the infestations have increased dramatically.

"Bed bug resurgence is most likely due to international travel, immigration and changes in pest control practices," Dr. Jerome Goddard said.

But for all that is known about bed bugs, there's still much that is unclear.

"We're not absolutely sure how folks react to bites, because it's so unusual that we get large numbers of them into the clinic to study," Dr. Richard Deshazo said. "Some scientific papers say that bed bugs transmit human diseases, some say they don't. Some people say you're supposed to throw out the mattresses when there's an infestation of bed bugs, some people say you don't."

So Drs. Goddard and Deshazo analyzed more than 50 studies. Their report, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says there is no evidence of disease from a bug bite.

"Human bed bug bites range in reaction from none to cutaneous to occasionally or rarely systemic," Dr. Dedshazo said. "And lastly, pest control of bed bugs or eradication is problematic. It's not impossible, but certainly difficult."

So while the red bumps and itching, the cutaneous reaction that may come with a bite, appear to be more nuisance than health hazard, experts agree a good look at the mattress you're about to sleep on is the best way to ensure that you wake up bed bug bite-free.

Web Produced by, Catherine McKenzie


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