The United States is currently experiencing a nightmarish epidemic of disgusting blood sucking parasites. There is a full blown bed bug epidemic happening all across America and it just seems to get worse with each passing year. For cities such as New York and Philadelphia which are at the epicenter of the outbreak, bed bugs have become an important political issue.  Once bed bugs become entrenched in an area, virtually everyone is thinking about them.  Bed bugs will not kill you, but they can drive you insane.  Anyone that has ever had big, red welts all over their bodies from bed bug bites knows how terribly frustrating bed bugs can be.  They can be incredibly difficult to get rid of.  So why am I talking about bed bugs when there are hundreds of other important economic issues to talk about right now?  Well, this is just another example of how our country seems to be cursed.  Even the simplest things seem to become major problems for us these days. The reality is that there were almost no bed bugs inside the U.S. between the end of World War II and the 1990s.  But today the number of bed bugs is absolutely exploding.  I remember when I was young my mother would tell me to sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite, but I didn't even know what bed bugs were because I had never seen any.  But today, CBS News says that more than 250 million dollars a year (and rising) is spent fighting bed bugs.

Things have gotten so bad that a National Bed Bug Summit was held earlier this year in Washington D.C.

Will we soon have a war on bed bugs?

I can just see it now: You are either with us or you are with the bed bugs.

So exactly what are bed bugs?

Well, basically bed bugs are small, brown, flat insects that love to suck the blood of animals and humans.  They are commonly found in hospitals, businesses, homes, sofas, mattresses, buses, subways, trains, airplanes, classrooms, retail stores, movie theaters and especially in hotels.

As mentioned above, you will not die from bed bug bites.  But many people have been driven absolutely crazy from constant bed bug bites for weeks or months on end.

One of the worst things about a bed bug infestation is all of the itching that bed bug bites cause.  It can get to a point where it can be absolutely debilitating.

Some people become so traumatized by the fear of having bed bugs crawl all over them and bite them all night that they actually become afraid to go to sleep.  A really bad bed bug infestation can cause panic attacks and even depression.

Right now there are large numbers of New Yorkers that are absolutely obsessed with bed bugs.  The bed bug infestation in the city just seems to get worse and worse.  The following is a quote from a local NBC news station in New York....

New statistics from the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development reveal an epidemic: Manhattanites have been complaining about bed bugs at six times the rate they did in 2005. On Staten Island, the number of complaints has soared 32 times higher than it was five years ago.

Just because you have bed bugs does not mean that you are dirty or unsanitary.  The truth is that some of the finest hotels in the country have bed bugs.

According to The New York Post, bed bugs have even infested the Metropolitan Opera House, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the Empire State Building and the United Nations.

I once experienced a problem with bed bugs myself.  Back when I was much younger and barely scraping by financially, I figured I would save a few bucks by buying a used mattress.

That was a huge mistake.

For weeks I would wake up with huge red bites all over my legs.

Never, ever again will I buy a used mattress.

Once bed bugs arrive in your home, they can be almost impossible to get rid of without professional help.

Throwing out one piece of furniture or covering your mattress in plastic might help a little bit but it will not solve the problem.

Some adult bed bugs can live for up to 12 months without feeding at all.

Just when you think they are gone they can come out and start feasting again.

Also, bed bugs are great at multiplying.  Female bed bugs can lay up to 5 eggs in a single day and can lay up to 500 eggs during a lifetime.

Perhaps your area of the country does not have a problem with bed bugs yet, but this epidemic is spreading.  Just check out the CBS News video report posted below....

Perhaps you saw in the news recently that some scientists have found that bed bugs are now carrying a superbug known as MRSA.

Scientists in Vancouver, Canada say that for the first time ever they have found bed bugs that have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.  The following is a quote from a recent CTV article about this discovery....

Researchers discovered that a sample of the blood-sucking insects taken from three patients who live in Vancouver's gritty Downtown Eastside were carrying two types of drug-resistant bacteria.

Co-investigator Dr. Marc Romney, a medical microbiologist at nearby St. Paul's Hospital, said five bedbugs plucked from the patients or their belongings were carrying MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) or VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci). Dubbed superbugs, the bacteria are resistant to many standard antibiotics.

The good news is that these scientists do not have any evidence that bed bugs are spreading MRSA to humans.

Bed bugs are able to be infected by at least 28 different human pathogens, but at least to this point they are not very effective at spreading them.

Let us hope that does not change.

It turns out that MRSA has also been found in our supermarket meat.

For the first time in the United States, scientists have found antibiotic-resistant MRSA in supermarket meat.

According to Business Insider, scientists at Wayne State University tested 289 raw meat samples from 30 Detroit grocery stores. Six of the samples were infected with the potentially deadly bacteria, including three chicken, two beef and one turkey.

Yuck!

MRSA is not something you want to mess around with.

This is yet another example of how unsafe our food is becoming.

We like to think of ourselves as so advanced, but we can't even protect ourselves from annoying little bed bugs and we can't even keep very serious pathogens out of our food supply.

If you stop and think about all of the gross things in our society it can really stress you out.  For example, the next time you use a soda fountain at a fast food restaurant there is a good chance that you may encounter fecal contamination.  Just check out the following quote from Organic Health....

According to a study published in the January issue of the International Journal of Food Microbiology, nearly half of the 90 beverages from soda fountain machines in one area in Virginia tested positive for coliform bacteria - which could indicate possible fecal contamination.

But getting back to bed bugs, for those dealing with an infestation the number one thing they want to know is what to do about it.

Well, there was one very effective chemical known as Propoxur, but it has been banned by the EPA.  It turns out that Propoxur is a known human carcinogen and is very dangerous to children.

Some are urging the EPA to reconsider this ban, but so far the EPA has been standing firm.

Meanwhile, the bed bugs continue to multiply and terrorize more Americans.

On one bed bug forum, one woman identified as avenae shared a particularly brutal bed bug horror story....

It all started in April, woke up one morning with a red welt on my leg. Never really thought much of it. Then it kept happening, so I thought I had fleas, treated my animals, checked the house for them. Never saw a single flea. Also no one else in my home was being affected. Then I thought maybe I was having an allergic reaction to a new soap I had bought so I stopped using that and nothing changed. Kept realizing I was waking up in the middle of the night scratching my body parts almost raw. The itch was so intense it felt like a million fire ants biting me all over. So I start researching, read up on bed bugs and searched my entire home....nothing. But I seem to be having a sever reaction to the bites.

Mind you I hadn't traveled, had any visitors, nothing that would have brought these nasty little creatures into my home.

Ever night I wake up, every morning new red welts all over me. One night I thought I'd wear long pants and sock and a long sleeve shirt, only to wake up with bites all over my neck and face! STILL could not find a single bug. It got to the point were I was crying myself to sleep at night and taking sleeping pills just to be able to sleep. Didn't want to start sleeping on the couch out of fear of them following me out.

Do you have a similar bed bug horror story?

If so, we would love to hear about it.  Please feel free to share your thoughts about bed bugs below....

***UPDATE***

A reader named Emily left the following comment that I think we all should consider the next time we travel....

I use to work as a Hotel Manager. Trust me when I say, all hotels are infested with bed bugs. It was terrible fighting with the corp. owners of the property; they only weighed your safety against profits and profits always won! We did try to kill the bugs, but nothing really is effective so we rented out infective rooms and if guest complained, we would offer them a discount on the room. It finally got to the point I could not look people in the face so I left. It goes with out saying; I would never stay in a hotel room, period! What can you do if you must travel, I don't know! It is a fact of life that we must expose our selves to many nasty parasites in the environment and most of the time we survive, but nature is coming up with much more deadly threats all the time and it is no longer an option to be exposed. We need to wake up to these threats.

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Michael T. Snyder is a graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia and has two law degrees from the University of Florida. He is an attorney that has worked for some of the largest and most prominent law firms in Washington D.C. and who now resides outside of Seattle, Washington. He is a very active blogger and is also a respected researcher, writer, speaker and activist. You can follow him on The Economic Collapse blog: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/