New research shows bed bugs are not disease spreaders
by Ted Carter
Published: July 1,2012
Tags: bedbugs, hospitality, hotel industry, Journal of the American Medical Association, Mississippi State University, Southern Remedies, University of Mississippi Medical Center Department of Medicine
The research of two Mississippi medical professionals — Dr. Richard deShazo and Dr. Jerome Goddard — brought the nation some welcome news in 2009: Bed bugs leave nasty bites that are hard to treat but no evidence exists to indicate they spread disease.
Their article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association and landed them a spot on NBC’s “The Today Show.”
Until the review by deShazo, chairman of the University of Mississippi Medical Center Department of Medicine, and Goddard, a Mississippi State University an entomology professor, little was known about the risks associated with bed bug bites.
Three months ago, deShazo and Goddard published a paper in the American Journal of Medicine on treating the blistering psychological effects of bed bug attacks.
In the 2009 article, their research determined bed bugs do not transmit dangerous diseases such as HIV or hepatitis. Even today, though, deShavo is not entirely sure the parasitic bed bugs are entirely free of pathogens.
“We have to keep a close eye on this,” he said.
One problem in assessing bed bug bites, according to deShazo, is that many bite victims have no reaction at all. Many others will get only a brief itch.
But “people who develop allergies to them or are bit repetitively get these skins reactions that persist for weeks.
“We use to miss them because it was such an unusual thing. But now we look for them when people come in with a rash.”
He estimates that around 40 percent of bite victims have some kind of irritation reaction. Fortunately for the victims, no reports of post-bite lethargy or lingering aches and pains have been reported.
Nonetheless, a person with open sores from bites could incur infections of some sort, according to deShavo, who does a weekly call-in show on Mississippi Public Radio titled “Southern Remedies.”
In their recent article in the American Journal of Medicine, deShavo and Goddard concluded that bed bug infestations and associated bites produce a variety of emotional and psychological reactions. Some of these may meet criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, they said, though more research is needed to determine to what extent PTSD may occur after attacks by bed bugs.
“It is not a surprise that awakening from sleep with severe itching associated with the visible presence of bed bugs on the skin and bed covering may cause panic, a sense of isolation, embarrassment, and insomnia,” they wrote, and concluded that bed bug attacks “cause moderate-to-severe psychological effects and PTSD in certain susceptible individuals.”
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