Bedbugs catch Washington’s eye

Danny Henley

How big of a problem have bedbugs become in the U.S.? They’ve caught the attention of the federal government.

In 2009, Congressman G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, introduced legislation that would provide resources to state and local officials to help them combat bedbug outbreaks in lodging facilities, residential housing and other settings. The bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by 14 U.S. House members.

The bill, called the “Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act,” was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Financial Services. Neither committee took any action on the bill.

Last August, the National Pest Management Association, working in cooperation with the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials and the National Apartment Association, hosted National Bed Bug Symposiums in Newark, N.J., and Seattle, Wash. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosted a National Bed Bug Summit in Arlington, Va.

Why all the fuss?

The National Pest Management Association has seen a 71 percent increase in bedbug infestations since 2001, mainly due to international travel. While the American Hotel and Lodging Association acknowledges those statistics, in a statement issued earlier this year it said the “increase has had a minimal impact on the vast majority of hotels.”

A study released last year by the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that bedbugs do not transmit disease to their victims. Consequently, some states view them as only a "nuisance."

“While there is a lot of yuck factor associated with bedbugs, because they do not transmit a communicable disease, it’s not reportable by state law,” said Bryan Haugen, an environmental health specialist with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post