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Bed Bug Battle Main Focus of Pest Convention

Bed bugs are the main topic as New Jersey's largest pest control convention gets under way Thursday.

With the recent shutdown of a New York City movie theater in the heart of Times Square due to bed bugs, and daily reports of growing infestations across the U.S., pest control experts will focus on ways to combat the problem.

Many experts are baffled by the resurgence. Entomologists say the pests are appearing on a scale not seen since before World War II.

"Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith pointed out on the broadcast Thursday the worst case of bedbugs may be in Ohio, which is now called the "Bed Bug Capital of the United States." State officials there held a crisis meeting yesterday with officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the use of certain pesticides to contain the pests.

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In New York City, the problem extended beyond movie theaters. In recent months, several chain stores, such as Hollister and Victoria's Secret, were reportedly facing infestations in the city.

So why have bedbugs sprung up so much lately?

CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said many theories exist, but could be linked to the ecosystem's fluctuations.

"Certain species become extinct, certain species flourish. That happens throughout history," she said.

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Additionally, she said there could be some insecticide resistance at play. Travel, she added, may also be a factor. With people moving, staying in hotels and coming from different parts of the world, she said, "We're just seeing them more."

But are they dangerous?

Ashton said, "Well, you would think they would be, right? Because they, in fact, feed on our blood. So, the thinking is that they could do the same thing to us as mosquitoes. There's no evidence of that. (We have) no evidence they can spread blood-borne diseases. What they can do is cause inflammation, itchiness in the bug bite, occasionally they can become super infected and need antibiotics."

However, Ashton said, there's a mental health aspect to a bedbug infestation.

She said, "This can cause significant stress if you have bedbugs in your living environment, it can make you crazy -- there's a big 'ick' factor. It can disturb sleep. People are sleeping out of their homes."

For more on bedbugs, go to WebMD here.

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