Federal workgroup forms to take a bite out of bedbugs

Federal offices face a public health scourge spreading across the nation: bedbugs. Five agencies have joined forces to form the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup, which...

By Vyomika Jairam

The Federal Bed Bug Workgroup? Yes, there is one, and they’re out to educate the public about the dangers of begbugs and how to prevent them from spreading.

The workgroup consists of five agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Defense Department, Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control.

In April 2009, the EPA held the first National Bed Bug Summit. The goal was to bring stakeholders and partners together, Lois Rossi, Director of the Registration Division in the Office of Pesticide Programs at the EPA said. Among the recommendations coming out of the summit was for federal agencies involved in dealing with bedbugs to come together and collaborate in a more formal way. By August, the EPA had reached out to other agencies and formed the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup.

The EPA’s role, Rossi said, is to register pesticides and to provide information on tools for controlling and removing begbugs.

The workgroup collaborates frequently to address issues related to bedbugs. The EPA and CDC worked together to declare bed bugs a public health pest. The EPA is currently involved in a project with the DOD to put together a bibliography of all federal research that has been done around the problem.

The workgroup is currently working toward a researchers meeting to “identify the knowledge gaps that we have about bedbugs, about how to control them, about how they behave, about different techniques that work in controlling them, and the efficacy of tools that are already out there,” Rossi said.

The workgroup is also working as a whole to improve communication with the public and provide a one stop guide for information on bedbugs. There are many Websites and fact sheets floating around, Rossi said, so the group wants build a clearinghouse where “the public can go to one spot and get reliable information.”

Categorized as public health pests, Rossi said they could be characterized as a nuisance pest because they don’t spread disease but can be very annoying depending upon the level of infestation.

While there is a lot of hysteria around bedbugs, Rossi said many of the messages out there, including that there is no silver bullet for getting rid of them and that they spread quickly, are true.

“Bedbugs are hitchhikers,” Rossi said, so if you put bags or suitcases down in an area that has bedbugs, they will latch on. “There is some speculation that because of the increase in international travel, because people are very mobile, those could be factors that have related to the widespread infestation that we’re experiencing in this country now.”

The Federal Bed Bug Workgroup is gearing up for its next summit in February 2011 at Georgetown University.

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