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New York battles to beat its plague of bedbugs

One in every 15 New Yorkers battled bedbugs last year, officials revealed today as they announced a plan to fight the spreading infestation.

The bloodsucking pests, which can cause great mental anguish and terrible itching, have rapidly multiplied throughout New York and many other US cities.

Health officials and pest control specialists report surges in sightings, bites and complaints. The Environ-mental Protection Agency hosted its first bedbug summit last year.

In New York City, the pests have been discovered in theatres, clothing stores, office buildings, housing projects and posh apartments.

The stigma of having bedbugs -- whose bites leave itchy red welts -- and the elusive nature of the pests make it impossible to fully understand the problem, experts say.

More than 6pc of New Yorkers said they had battled the pests in the last year -- roughly 400,000 adults.


The Mayor's office fielded 537 complaints about the bugs in 2004. In 2009, there were nearly 11,000.

"This is happening globally, and I don't think anybody has figured out exactly why," said Daniel Kass, the city's deputy commissioner for environmental health.

"So what we're left with is managing them and keeping them from spreading."

Bedbugs are about the size of an apple seed and burrow into many more places than beds. They can slip into floor cracks, wall outlets, picture frames and lamps.

People who have bedbugs often never see them. The most obvious signs are bites, blood on bedsheets and their waste, which looks like black pepper. They are extremely difficult to eradicate and can go a year without feeding.