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Insecticide for bedbugs making people sick

The fight against bedbugs is apparently making people sick. The culprit is the insecticides used to kill the stubborn pests.
September 23, 2011 12:07:23 AM PDT
The fight against bedbugs is apparently making people sick. The culprit is the insecticides used to kill the stubborn pests.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that insecticides used in bedbug eradication have made 80 people sick in the past three years. One person has even died - a 65-year-old woman from Rocky Mount, N.C. - but she had a history of heart trouble and other ailments.

Researchers say many of the cases were do-it-yourselfers who misused the chemicals or used the wrong product altogether.

About 90 percent of the cases were linked to pyrethroids or pyrethrins, insecticides commonly used against bedbugs. Such products are not a health risk to most people, but experts say they should still be applied by a trained exterminator.

"At this point, it's not a major public health problem," said Dr. Geoff Calvert, a CDC investigator who co-authored the study.

CDC officials suggested people trying to rid their homes of bedbugs should first thoroughly vacuum all floors and furniture and wash linens.

If it doesn't work, call an exterminator to apply the chemicals, and then carefully follow their directions about re-entering the room and airing it out, they said.

Bedbugs are wingless, reddish-brown insects that bite people and animals to draw blood for their meals. Though their bites can cause itching and welts, they are not known to spread disease.

"There's nothing inherently dangerous about bedbugs," said Dr. Susi Vassallo, an emergency medicine doctor who works at New York City's Bellevue Hospital Center and occasionally treats patients who report bedbug problems.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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