Bed Bugs Infestations on the Rise
Friday, April 20, 2012
Don't let the name fool you. Bedbugs spread beyond sleeping
quarters: Office infestations doubled in the past year, according
to a survey released Tuesday.
Infestations are becoming more and more common in offices and
schools, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at its
Epidemic Intelligence Services conference in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Although bedbugs do not transmit any diseases, their bites can be
very itchy -- and getting rid of the bugs can be a pain.
Last year, 38 percent of exterminators nationwide responded to
bedbug infestations of office buildings, more than double the 17
percent that did in 2010, according to the CDC officials who
released the figures at the conference.
Thirty-six percent of surveyed exterminators treated schools and
day-care centers last year, more than triple the 10 percent that
did in 2010.
Meanwhile, 33 percent of them treated hospitals last year, almost
triple the 12 percent that did in 2010.
Bedbugs are small, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping
people or animals. The rust-colored nuisances can grow to as long
as a quarter-inch (7 millimeters). Travelers typically transport
bedbugs, according to the CDC, as the vermin can hide in the lining
of suitcases and sneak into folded clothes before infesting houses
when people unpack.
"Most cities have bedbug problems today," Michael F. Potter,
professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky, told MSNBC
in 2010. "Any place you have a lot of people, or a lot of movement
of people, you have bedbugs."
If bedbugs are so ubiquitous, how can you prevent them?
- Check all secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs
of bedbug infestation. Look for reddish-brown or rust-colored spots
on sheets and mattresses, especially before you lay down in a hotel
bed, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You can also
look for skins or even live bugs underneath the mattress.
- Use a protective case that covers your mattress and box spring
completely. Bedbugs are excellent hiders. A mattress cover
eliminates many of their hiding places. In addition, such covers
are usually light in color, which makes bedbugs easier to
- Reduce clutter around your bed. Bedbugs typically live within 8
feet (2.5 meters) of your bed. Cleaning the area removes many of
their hiding places.
- When traveling, use luggage racks to hold your luggage instead
of putting it on the floor.
- When returning home, unpack your luggage directly into the
washing machine and inspect it for any signs of bedbugs.
- If your home does become infested with bedbugs, it can be very
difficult to exterminate them because of their quick reproduction.
A female bedbug can lay five to seven eggs per week, which take
about 10 days to hatch. Bedbugs can survive for months without
feeding, so getting rid of them often takes multiple treatments,
according to the New York City Department of Health.
Although bedbug bites do not transmit diseases, they can be very
itchy. Their bite marks look like mosquito or flea bite marks, and
they appear from one to several days after the bite, according to
If you notice bedbugs in your home, there are several steps you can
take to get rid of them.
- Call an exterminator. Bed bugs are resilient, and pesticides
are usually necessary to get rid of them. Bug bombs are not
effective against bedbugs, according to the NYC Department of
- Wash any and all clothing, bedding cushions, and fabric in hot
water. Heat kills the bugs. Put anything you cannot wash into a
garbage bag and stick it in the sun.
- Cover your bedposts in petroleum jelly. Bedbugs cannot fly.
Putting jelly on your bedposts makes it much more difficult for
them to crawl into your bed.