Sewer-Dwelling Cockroaches Once Caused a Hepatitis-A Outbreak in a Los Angeles Neighborhood

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Israel Alvarez

Owner @ Insight Pest Management

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Are Cockroaches Dangerous?While it is unsettling to encounter any type of insect pest within a home, many people consider cockroaches to be among the most dreadful insect pests that exist. Insect pests like bed bugs, fleas, wasps and many ant species are not only a nuisance when they invade homes in large numbers, but they also inflict irritating bites that pose a threat to human health. Cockroaches, on the other hand, almost never bite humans, and they are not widely considered to be a threat to human health. Nevertheless, cockroach infestations are commonly considered to be just as, if not more intolerable than infestations established by the above named insects, perhaps with the exception of bed bugs.

The World Health Organization does not categorize cockroaches as a significant public health threat, but medical professionals representing the organization also claim that the filthy insects have been responsible for causing human disease by spreading dangerous pathogens within homes and buildings. However, it should be known that cockroach infestations have caused disease outbreaks in the past. In fact, roaches were found to be the cause of one particular disease outbreak that occurred in a Los Angeles neighborhood several decades ago.

Six cockroach pest species are known to invade homes in every region of California. The German, American and Oriental cockroach species are the most common indoor roach pests in the Los Angeles area, and only two species, the German and brownbanded cockroaches, maintain indoor habitats throughout their entire life-cycles. The German cockroach is, by far, the most significant roach pest in the entire state, but research shows that the American cockroach carries the greatest amount of bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic pathogens.

During a period of seven years during the 1950s, an outbreak of Hepatitis-A occurred within the Carmelitos Housing Project in Los Angeles. At the time, the precise cause of the outbreak was unknown to medical professionals, and the amount of human disease cases dramatically increased with each passing year. Eventually, a large-scale cockroach control program was initiated in the housing project, which entailed repeated applications of a newly developed cockroach insecticide within every home in the area. Two years after the roach control program was initiated, the amount of Hepatitis-A cases among residents of the housing project dropped to 0 %. It did not take long before researchers confirmed that the viral outbreak had been caused by massive amounts of cockroaches that regularly traveled back and forth in between houses and the sewer system. The cockroach culprits were exposing residents to viral pathogens that they had picked up in their preferred sewer habitat. Today, it is well known that sewer-dwelling cockroaches frequently emerge from sink, bathtub and basement drains within homes all over the world.

Have you ever spotted one or more cockroaches near an indoor drain?

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