Don't Let the Bedbug Story Bite


Interesting analysis of a tiny–very tiny–media panic over the looming, but likely nonexistent, "return of the bedbug" from the Washington Post. Excerpt:

Even if no one is padding the totals, relying on reports from freaked-out callers is ill-advised. For one thing, there are so many people out there who think they're being devoured by bugs—and aren't—that psychologists have a name for it: delusional parasitosis.

"We had a lady come in here with a garbage bag she said was filled with bugs that were biting her," says Matt Nixon of American Pest Management in Takoma Park. "She handed it to my dad and she said, 'If you open that and you get bit, it's your problem.' And there was nothing in there except lint, hair and dry skin. We deal with people like that every week."

But there are so many bedbug false alarms that there's reason to assume many perfectly sane people are ringing them. In New York, the city housing authority has fielded and checked out more than 2,500 bedbug complaints in the past three years; fewer than 500 turned out to be actual infestations. Even allowing for some overlap—two calls about the same bugs, for instance—that's as many as two or three callers who don't have bedbugs for each caller who does.