Acute illnesses associated with insecticides used to control bed bugs--seven states, 2003--2010

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Sep 23;60(37):1269-74.


The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is a wingless, reddish-brown insect that requires blood meals from humans, other mammals, or birds to survive. Bed bugs are not considered to be disease vectors, but they can reduce quality of life by causing anxiety, discomfort, and sleeplessness. Bed bug populations and infestations are increasing in the United States and internationally. Bed bug infestations often are treated with insecticides, but insecticide resistance is a problem, and excessive use of insecticides or use of insecticides contrary to label directions can raise the potential for human toxicity. To assess the frequency of illness from insecticides used to control bed bugs, relevant cases from 2003-2010 were sought from the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR)-Pesticides program and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). Cases were identified in seven states: California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Texas, and Washington. A total of 111 illnesses associated with bed bug-related insecticide use were identified; although 90 (81%) were low severity, one fatality occurred. Pyrethroids, pyrethrins, or both were implicated in 99 (89%) of the cases, including the fatality. The most common factors contributing to illness were excessive insecticide application, failure to wash or change pesticide-treated bedding, and inadequate notification of pesticide application. Although few cases of illnesses associated with insecticides used to control bed bugs have been reported, recommendations to prevent this problem from escalating include educating the public about effective bed bug management.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Bedbugs*
  • Bedding and Linens
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insect Control / methods*
  • Insecticides / poisoning*
  • Malathion / poisoning
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pyrethrins / poisoning*
  • United States


  • Insecticides
  • Pyrethrins
  • Malathion