Dozens Sickened Trying to Kill Bedbugs

CDC even reports one death over misguided use of pesticides
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Sep 23, 2011 1:06 PM CDT
Bedbugs are seen next to the tip of a finger.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(Newser) – Don’t let the bedbugs bite—but if they do, don’t panic. While the creatures themselves aren’t known to cause much more than itching, the chemicals used to get rid of them have been linked to 111 illnesses and a death between 2003 and 2010, a CDC study finds. Some 64 of the reports came from New York City, though the CDC could get data from only seven states. The numbers of cases are thankfully small, investigators found: “At this point, it's not a major public health problem.”

Many of the illnesses occurred after people made mistakes in an effort to do their own exterminating, USA Today notes. Take the disturbing case of a 65-year-old woman who washed her hair in pesticide and placed an insecticide-soaked towel on her chest. She died of respiratory failure. The upshot, experts tell the New York Times: Fear of bedbugs may be a greater threat than the bugs themselves. “People lose their minds and, yeah, they’ll do a lot of things trying to get rid of them,” says a professor.

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