Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Via Google (AP) -

Don't let the bedbugs bite." Doesn't seem so bad in a cheerful bedtime rhyme, but it's becoming a really big problem now that the nasty critters are invading hospitals, college dorms and even swanky hotels. With the most effective pesticides banned, the government is trying to figure out how to respond to the biggest bedbug outbreak since World War II.

Bedbugs live in the crevices and folds of mattresses, sofas and sheets. Then, most often before dawn, they emerge to feed on human blood.

Faced with rising numbers of complaints to city information lines and increasingly frustrated landlords, hotel chains and housing authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency hosted its first-ever bedbug summit Tuesday.


Increasing international travel has also helped them to hitchhike into the U.S.


The EPA is not alone in trying to deal with the problem. An aide to Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., says the congressman plans to reintroduce legislation next week to expand grant programs to help public housing authorities cope with infestations.

The bill will be called the "Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite Act."

"It was clear something needed to be done," said Saul Hernandez, Butterfield's legislative assistant.

Bedbugs are not known to transmit any diseases. But their bites can cause infections and allergic reactions in some people. The insects release an anticoagulant to get blood flowing, and they also excrete a numbing agent so their bites don't often wake their victims.


So bedbug problems increase, said Dini Miller, an entomologist and bedbug expert at Virginia Tech, who until 2001 saw bedbugs only on microscope slides dating from the 1950s. Now she gets calls and e-mails several times a day from people at their wits' end.

"I can't tell you how many people have spent the night in their bathtubs because they are so freaked out by bedbugs," Miller said. "I get these people over the phone that have lost their marbles."

Because the registration of new pesticides takes so long, one thing the EPA could do is to approve some pesticides for emergency use, Miller said.

Another tactic would be to screen pesticides allowed for use by farmers to see if they are safe in household settings.

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