Oh Great, Bed Bugs Can Kill You

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

If you’ve had bed bugs, you know that the damage they inflict is largely psychological. Yes, they feed on human blood, and if you are allergic the bite marks they leave can blow up to painful welts, but long after you’ve healed, long after they’ve been exterminated from your living space, their presence lingers. Any piece of black lint becomes a reason to drop everything and scrutinize to make sure they didn’t return; any communal space outside your home can inflict paranoia as a potential spot where you may pick them up. Unlike other household pests, bed bugs aren’t known as significant disease carriers (they don’t typically travel far or at all once they find a host and thus tend to feed on relatively few humans). Their presence is their primary infliction.


Well, but they can also kill you, a new CBS21 News report suggests. According to court documents, a 96-year-old Pennsylvania woman named Mary Stoner died of complications from sepsis after caretaker Deborah Butler neglected to get Stoner’s bed bug bites treated. (Hypertensive and arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease were also contributing causes to Stoner’s death.)

From CBS21:

Police visited Butler’s home in Hanover on West Baltimore Pike where they say they observed another elderly woman in her care. Police say the home was so severely infested with bed bugs, they could see them crawling on the residents’ bodies, pillows and all throughout the home.

Butler told police she had been working to get rid of the bed bug problem since September 2015, but was unable to fully resolve the matter, adding she could not afford to pay for an exterminator.

Witnesses said they observed Stoner “all bruised” and “moaning in pain.” Butler claimed that she took Stoner to the doctor in January 2016 because she was “scratching her neck” and “sick to her stomach,” but said it was caused by anxiety. She didn’t tell the doctor about the bed bug infestation at the assisted care facility she runs, and so Stoner was diagnosed with a scabies infection. CBS21 reports that when Stoner’s daughter picked her up, she noticed her mother had severe skin rashes. Stoner was taken to the hospital, treated, and released. Two days later she was readmitted for pneumonia and then died.

Butler has been charged with neglect and involuntary manslaughter.

Some Pig. Terrific. Radiant. Humble.



My sister had a bed bug infestation and treated it for a month or so before she finally called in professionals. For the next 8 years she would get a bug bite - any type of bug bite - and wonder if she had bed bugs again. Then the next day she’d wake up covered in bug bites. 100% psychosomatic. She would constantly call the professionals in to treat for bed bugs and even though they would tell her she’s completely clear, she’d toss out her mattress and boil every piece of fabric in the house. She’d call in sick to work because she looked like she had chickenpox or measles. For years this went on. She’d think about having bed bugs, bites would appear, she’d freak out and try to treat a nonexistent infestation, then some sort of drama would happen at work or the theater that required all her freaking out capabilities and the bites would disappear, so she assumed that she had successfully treated the infestation. Months later, she’d think about bed bugs and the whole cycle started all over again.

So not only can bed bugs kill you (if you’re old and neglected), they can drive you insane, too.