The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has long been a pest – feeding on blood, causing itchy bites and generally irritating their human hosts. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all consider bed bugs a public health pest. However, unlike most public health pests, bed bugs are not known to transmit or spread disease.

Bed bugs are a public health pest. While bed bugs have not been shown to transmit disease, they do cause a variety of negative physical health, mental health and economic consequences. Some of these effects include:

  • Allergic reactions to their bites, which can be severe. Effects ranging from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body reaction).

  • Secondary infections of the skin from the bite reaction, such as impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphangitis.

  • Mental health impacts on people living in infested homes. Reported effects include anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed a document to highlight emerging public health issues associated with bed bugs in communities throughout the United States.

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