Don't Let Bed Bugs Come Home For The Holidays
Monday, November 21, 2011

Feast on turkey and stuffing with the relatives this Thanksgiving, but don't let the bedbugs come home to feast on you.

Holiday travel gives the blood-sucking insects a chance to hijack your suitcase and clothes. By January, they may be a menace that's almost impossible to ignore.

After several years of skyrocketing bedbug complaints, numbers have reached a plateau, according to data from the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. But that doesn't mean bedbugs, which feed while humans are in deep sleep, are on the decline.

"At this point we are all going to have a baseline level of infestation," said Diane Keay, environmental health supervisor at the health department. "They're not going away."

Every community - though not every house - will struggle with the hungry bugs, and cleanup costs and logistics may make it hard for some people to ever get rid of them.

In 2004, bedbugs were almost unheard of. The health department received a single complaint that year. By 2008, the number had exploded to 99 complaints, primarily by tenants of rental properties or hotels, which the health department regulates. As of this year, the number rose to 121 complaints, similar to numbers in the past few years.

This does not include the hundreds of phone calls the health department receives annually from homeowners looking for advice about an infestation.

"We've always said it's not a respecter of economic or social, ethnic background of any sort," said Keay, who receives a bed bug call almost every day. "What we are realizing now, however, is that the truly poor are going to have a hard time getting rid of them."