September 24, 2011

CDC: Use of Insecticides Against Bedbugs Results in Illnesses

Improper use of insecticides by individuals looking to kill bedbugs resulted in 80 illnesses and one fatality over a three-year period, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released on Thursday.

The CDC study included data from 12 states, only seven of which -- California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington -- reported illnesses that resulted from bedbug insecticides. Most of the cases originated from New York City, "the home of several highly publicized bedbug infestations," according to David W Freeman of CBS News.

In all, from 2003 through 2010, the CDC recorded 111 cases of poisoning, often resulting from misuse of the chemicals needed to the wingless, blood-sucking bugs. AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe noted that investigators "were relieved to see that the number of cases was relatively small."

Nearly three-fourths of those cases occurred starting in 2008, and 81-percent were deemed to be of low severity. Ninety-three percent occurred in private residences, and symptoms included headaches and dizziness, respiratory issues, and nausea and vomiting.

Only 12-percent of the cases were work-related, and the sole fatality, which occurred in North Carolina in 2010, involved a 65-year-old woman "who had a history of renal failure, myocardial infarction and placement of two coronary stents, type II diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and depression," the CDC report said.

She had been on 10 medications at the time of her exposure to insecticide foggers used by her husband to eradicate the insects. Two different products were used by her husband, and neither had been registered for use on beg bugs, the agency added.

Furthermore, nine cans of chemical fogger were initially released in the home on the same day, and the woman later "applied a bedbug and flea insecticide to her arms, sores on her chest, and on her hair before covering it with a plastic cap."

She was taken to a hospital after falling ill, where she later died. The New York Times identified the victim as Lilah Gray, a resident of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

That incident aside, "at this point, it's not a major public health problem," Dr. Geoff Calvert, a CDC investigator who co-authored the study, told the Associated Press (AP).

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

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