Bed Bugs

Public health importance:

Bedbugs are not considered vectors of disease. It has been suggested that they play a role as vectors of the hepatitis B virus  but this was denied in a recent study in the Gambia. They are mainly important as a biting nuisance. Some people, especially those exposed for a long time, show little or no  reaction to the bites, which appear as small red spots that may not even itch. People never bitten before may suffer from local inflammation, intense itching and sleepless nights. The bite produces a hard whitish swelling that often continues to bleed. Scratching may cause secondary infections. In heavily infested houses where people may receive one hundred or more bites a night it is possible that the blood loss causes mild anaemia in infants.


Deet and other insect repellents are effective against bedbugs. They can be used by travelers who have to sleep in houses infested with the insects. However, repellents applied to the skin are unlikely to last the whole night. It is likely that burning mosquito coils offer some protection.

Simple household measures:

Small numbers of bedbugs can occur in any household, especially when secondhand furniture or bedding is used. Light infestations can be treated by thoroughly cleaning infested articles, pouring boiling water over them and exposing them to sunlight. Aerosol spray cans can be used to spray household insecticides on to mattresses, in crevices in walls, and in other possible hiding places. Among the effective insecticides are the pyrethroids, propoxur, bendiocarb and dichlorvos. The procedure should be repeated if bugs are still found after a few weeks.