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Bedbugs A Problem, But It May Not Be Unique To Ohio

Four Ohio cities made a dubious list last week. According to a report, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton are among the top 15 most bedbug infested cities in the country.

The report came from the pest control company, Terminix, and when it came out, it was icky news for Ohioans. More than any other state, Ohio appears to be having a big bedbug problem. But Jen House, with Ohio Department of Health says it's important to remember that this study was based on the number of calls Terminix received from across the state.

"So I don't think there's any real scientific study done to kind of where bedbugs really are occurring, so we're not really putting a lot of stake in these new reports being released," says House.

House adds that at the state level, they've been working to raise awareness on the problem, so it could just be that more people call because more people know about the potential threat.

"There may be other places where people aren't even aware that bedbugs still exist. We certainly don't think we're alone in this. We know this is a national problem and we know that these bugs are coming back across the country, not just here in Ohio," says House.

"People in Ohio do have a lot of awareness," Dr. Susan Jones is an entomologist at Ohio State University, "that being said, I do think that we do have a big issue with bedbugs in Ohio cities."

Jones specializes in bedbugs, among other insects. She says she thinks there are a couple of reasons Ohioans are battling the pest.

"Because Ohio has been in this economic recession, so many people have been unable to afford bedbug treatments. We're talking hundreds of dollars," says Jones.

Jones says another reason is that Ohio has an uncoordinated approach to dealing with bedbugs. Different local agencies across the state play different roles. For example, in Montgomery County, the public health department takes calls on bedbugs, but it's not a top priority because bedbugs don't transmit disease.

"As the problem grows, I'm sure our role may change long term, but right now we're on the educational side of it," says Montgomery County Public Health spokesman Bill Wharton.

The third reason for Ohio's bedbug problem is a recent ban on the most effective pesticide, Propoxur. It was used for years in this country, and it keeps killing bedbugs for weeks. But the US Environmental Protection Agency says Propoxur is not safe for children, and ruled in 2007 that no more of it can be used indoors. Dr. Jones says she's not convinced the pesticide is harmful, and that it's important to get something to manage the bedbug problem.

"This insect is something that is so pervasive and so insidious and has such a devastating effect on our vulnerable populations, that I literally can't understand how our federal agencies don't have more compassion for people," says Jones.

The Ohio Department of Health petitioned the EPA to continue use of Propoxur. It's also formed the Ohio Bedbug Work Group to study the issue. Their recommendations will be coming out later this month.