Bed Bug Treatment Can Cause Illness

CDC recommends broad public education on effective bed bug management

THURSDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Illnesses related to the pesticides used to treat bed bug infestations -- an increasingly prevalent problem in the United States and worldwide -- are few and far between; still, inappropriate use of the insecticides can and does cause harm, according to research published in the Sept. 23 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

James B. Jacobson, M.P.H., of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues used data from the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to assess the frequency of illness attributed to the use of bed bug-related insecticide between 2003 and 2010. Illness was defined as two or more acute adverse health effects resulting from exposure to an insecticide used for bed bug control.

The researchers identified 111 cases, 90 (81 percent) of which were low in severity. There was one death. In 99 (89 percent) of the cases, pyrethroids, pyrethrins, or both were implicated. Factors that contributed most often to the insecticide-related illnesses were excessive application of the insecticides, failure to launder or change bedding that had been treated, and poor notification of pesticide treatment.

"Although few cases of illnesses associated with insecticides used to control bed bugs have been reported, recommendations to prevent this problem from escalating include educating the public about effective bed bug management," the authors write.

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