Federal agencies strategize to fight bed bugs

Tuesday - 2/1/2011, 6:46pm EST

Federal Workgroup Bed Bug Summit

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By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

The Defense Department, Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all have initiatives to combat bed bug infestations through extensive research, communication and education as infestations rise across the country.

"One of our major roles is to foster communication across the federal agencies," said Susan Jennings, representative of the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup. "Prior to organizing this work group there was some communication, I wouldn't say there wasn't any, but it was very scattered, not even as needed. I'd day it was as was convenient."

At Tuesday's second annual bed bug summit in Washington, Jennings said the agencies are working together with the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup to increase research in pesticides and other preventative measures as well as integrate pest management principles and educate the public on bed bugs.

She also said the work group has had an "open venue to have regular communications on a myriad of topics and has been very effective" with the agencies and their focus on bed bugs.

The government's job on this issue is to "facilitate information exchange, encourage research and promote safe control," Jennings said.

The EPA, for instance, has created a strategy that will develop new tools, use integrated pest management principles, provide education on bed bugs and eliminate the misuse of bed bug preventative measures, Jennings said.

The EPA stated on its website that it classifies the use of integrated pest management principles a critical measure, considering them an "effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common sense practices."

These principles include setting thresholds, monitoring and identifying pests, prevention and control.

The Armed Forces Task Management Board (AFTMB) joins EPA in this fight against bed bugs. It is dedicated to ensuring the issue of bed bug infestations in the DoD are under control.

"The Department of Defense has had bed bug infestations which have been very similar to those in the surrounding communities where these installations are located," said Jennings.

The AFTMB has found that bed bug representations are equal between the surrounding communities and the bases in those areas. Jennings said that it is "remarkable that they [DoD] have had no highly resistant populations reported yet in any of the DoD facilities."

Jennings said the workgroup focuses on research done by the Department of Agricultural Research Service, which has spent "over $370,000 a year on researching and working with bed bugs."

Jennings also called out the CDC's role. She said the CDC is "a source of information and education dissemination and I can tell you from experience, what the CDC says carries a lot of weight."

Even with the increased collaboration efforts underway, bed bug infestations continue to rise.

According to a Terminix bed bug tracking map, the rise in bed bug infestations shows a level of "severe" on the northeast coast.

HUD has instituted an internal bed bug committee, committed to research and best practices to help the agency and citizens at-large. HUD provides information on pesticides and other preventions the public needs.

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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