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Bed Bugs are Public Health Pests
Although bed bugs are not known to transmit disease, they are a pest of significant public health importance. Bed bugs fit into a category of blood-sucking ectoparasites (external parasites) similar to head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis). Bed bugs, like head lice, feed on the blood of humans but are not believed to transmit disease. Differences in the biology of similar species of pests, such as body lice and head lice (or bed bugs) can greatly impact the ability of pests to transmit disease.
In 2002, the federal government (EPA, CDC, USDA) officially acknowledged the public health impacts of bed bugs. They cause a variety of negative physical health, mental health and economic consequences. Many people have mild to severe allergic reaction to the bites with effects ranging from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body reaction). These bites can also lead to secondary infections of the skin such as impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphanigitis. Bed bugs may also affect the mental health of people living in infested homes. Reported effects include anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions.
Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control in the United States from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
List of Pests of Significant Public Health Importance (PDF) (32 pp, 437 K, About PDF) - Pesticide Registration (PR Notice) Notice 2002-1