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Bedbugs Back in U.S. Beds

Pest Firms Report Uptick in Calls for Bedbug Busters

Bedbugs and Disease continued...

One of those researchers is Ann Silverman, MD, director of gastroenterology and hepatitis research at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., and assistant professor at Wayne State University.

Silverman somehow talked hepatitis B patients into allowing her to let bedbugs feed on their arms. The bugs became full of live hepatitis B virus. When bugs were liquefied and injected into woodchucks, the animals became infected.

"The question is, 'Can bedbugs transmit hepatitis B by feeding on one person infected with the virus and giving it to the next person?' At this point we just don't know," Silverman tells WebMD. "But people shouldn't get alarmed."

Even so, Silverman admits, while doing the research she had nightmares that her hepatitis-fed bedbugs got loose.

Similar tests showed that hepatitis C -- a totally different virus -- can't survive in bedbugs.

Bedbugs Begone

If you've got bedbugs, get rid of them. Now.

"From a public health and hygiene point of view, we shouldn't tolerate bedbugs," the CDC's Beard says. Bedbug infestations are not healthy at all."

Who you gonna call? Bedbug busters, say the professionals.

"This isn't something homeowners can do themselves," Mannes says. "They hide so well. Even with professionals it often takes two or three calls. You have to keep checking that they're really gone. You want to be sure. They can be under the carpet, the baseboards, in picture frames, electrical outlets. They can live for a year -- and multiply -- without a blood meal."

Mannes and Meek say that pest control companies can rid beds of bugs without having to use pesticide. But every crack and crevice of the rest of the room likely will need to be treated.

"Bedbugs can be very difficult insects to control," Meek says. "If you suspect a problem, don't put it off. Call a pro. And call right away, because that minimizes the discomfort and time it takes to properly treat your home."

To prevent getting bedbugs in the first place, Mannes offers a few tips to travelers:

  • At the hotel, pull the bed covers down at night. If you see something moving, or if you see spots on the sheets, move to another room.
  • Vacuum your suitcases before bringing them into the house. "That seems like overkill, but we do recommend it," Mannes says.
  • Don't relax your vigilance even if you're paying a lot for your hotel. "Many of our calls come from very nice hotels in places like Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York City -- tourist locations with lots of transient folks," Mannes says.


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