NEW YORK, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Americans fighting recent bedbug infestations across the United States say they also find themselves in another battle -- against social stigmas.
Beyond the bites and the itching, victims of the nation's most recent plague are finding that friends begin to keep their distance, invitations are withdrawn, and they are generally treated as outcasts, The New York Times reported Saturday.
In New York, where roaches and rats are considered a fact of daily life, no one wants to be exposed to the nighttime pests -- or to people who've had to deal with them.
"They don't want to hug you anymore; they don't want you coming over," Jeremy Sparig of Brooklyn, N.Y., who spent months fighting bedbugs, said. "You're like a leper."
Some of the fears behind the social stigmas are rooted in fact as bedbugs can travel on clothing, hitch a ride in purses or pocketbooks and hide in furniture.
The pests are becoming harder to avoid, experts say. Once almost eradicated with the use of DDT, they're turning up everywhere.
"Public health agencies across the country have been overwhelmed by complaints about bedbugs," a joint statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency said this month.