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Do-it-yourself bed bug extermination can be dangerous to health, CDC study finds

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A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some Americans are poisoning themselves by using do-it-yourself treatments to get rid of bed bugs.

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David Horne demonstrates the process of looking for bed bugs in sofas, chairs, beds, drapes and curtains. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some Americans are poisoning themselves by using do-it-yourself treatments to get rid of bed bugs.  RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF
RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF
David Horne demonstrates the process of looking for bed bugs in sofas, chairs, beds, drapes and curtains. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some Americans are poisoning themselves by using do-it-yourself treatments to get rid of bed bugs.

A North Carolina woman died after spraying pesticide on her legs, chest and hair when nine cans of a bug-killing fog released in her home didn’t work. A kindergartner in Ohio experienced diarrhea, headaches and vomiting after the floors in his home were “saturated” with insecticide.

All told, researchers identified 111 cases in seven states of people getting sick in amateur attempts to combat a resurgence in the bed bug population; a majority of cases – 73 percent – were of low severity.

Jeff Mehaffey, a sales representative at Augusta’s Horne’s Pest Control, suggests calling a professional for treatment as soon as bed bugs are suspected. “They’re going to be everywhere,” he said.

Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects about 1 to 7 millimeters in length. Their flat shape and size allow them to hide during the day in tiny crevices. They can travel 100 feet in one night, but they usually live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

While bed bugs are not known to spread disease, their blood-sucking bites can cause severe itching.

“A lot of people aren’t willing to devote the amount of time” it takes to getting rid of bed bugs, said Mehaffey.

Professionals pull apart bed frames, bag up clutter and spray the proper amounts of pesticide into every nook and cranny to fully rid a house of bed bugs. A common mistake that homeowners make with poisons is failing to dilute the solution or follow other directions, Mehaffey said. It’s also critical that treatments also get rid of any eggs that might be present or the infestation will reoccur.

The CDC suggests several methods of getting rid of bed bugs without professional help: heat treatments, sealing cracks and crevices, vacuuming and “judicious” use of effective chemical pesticides.

“Although bed bugs may sometimes be controlled by nonchemical means alone, this approach is often very difficult, potentially less effective, and usually more resource intensive,” the CDC said.


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