This 2006 photograph depicted a lateral view of an adult bed bug, Cimex lectularius, as it was in the process of ingesting a blood meal from the arm of a “voluntary” human host.
Bed bugs are not vectors in nature of any known human disease. Although some disease organisms have been recovered from bed bugs under laboratory conditions, none have been shown to be transmitted by bed bugs outside of the laboratory. Bed bug bites are difficult to diagnose due to the variability in bite response between people, and due to the change in skin reaction for the same person over time. It is best to collect and identify bed bugs to confirm bites. Bed bugs are responsible for loss of sleep, discomfort, disfiguring from numerous bites and occasionally bites may become infected.
The common bed bug C. lectularius is a wingless, red-brown, blood-sucking insect that grows up to 7 mm in length and has a lifespan from 4 months up to 1 year. Bed bugs hide in cracks and crevices in beds, wooden furniture, floors, and walls during the daytime and emerge at night to feed on their preferred host, humans.
The common bed bug is found worldwide. Infestations are common in the developing world, occurring in settings of unsanitary living conditions and severe crowding. In North America and Western Europe, bed bug infestations became rare during the second half of the 20th century and have been viewed as a condition that occurs in travelers returning from developing countries. However, anecdotal reports suggest that bed bugs are increasingly common in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. [Images from the CDC Public Health Image Library]