Bedbugs: A primer for the health-system pharmacist

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Purpose: The history and life cycle of bedbugs, the identification and supportive treatment of bedbug bites, and the eradication and prevention of bedbug infestations are reviewed.

Summary: Cimex lectularius, known commonly as the bedbug, is a growing problem in the United States. While the bedbug population declined between the 1950s and the late 20th century, recent increases in international travel and immigration, the banning of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, and insecticide resistance have caused a resurgence of bedbug infestations. Infestations can be identified based on clinical presentation and situational indicators such as housing location and the presence of bedbug fecal smears and nests. Chronic infestation can lead to nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia arising from the inability to identify and eradicate the problem. Scratching at the bite site can lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Because bedbugs continue to bite until the infestation is eradicated, treatment is not accomplished by one strategy alone. A team effort by different health care professionals is necessary. Because bedbugs are hardy insects, eradication can be a daunting task. Proper eradication plans should be in place at all health care facilities, and bedbug infestations should be reported to the state public health department to support the tracking and management of bedbugs.

Conclusion: Bedbug infestations are prevalent in locations with high occupant turnover, including hospitals and health systems. Bedbug bites can cause secondary infections and lead to discomfort and anxiety in affected individuals. Pharmacists should work with other health care providers to provide affected patients with supportive treatment and ensure appropriate eradication of the infestation.


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