Are bed bug infestations getting better or worse?
A new report conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky has found that bed bug infestations in the United States are continuing at high rates.
The report also stated that a third of pest-management companies treated bedbug infestations in hospitals in 2012, 6% more than the year before and more than twice as many as in 2010. The percentage of exterminators dealing with bed bugs in nursing homes has also almost doubled since 2010, to 46%. Bed bug experts also reported seeing them in ambulances, and 99.6 percent of study respondents claimed to have encountered bed bug infestations in the past year.
The top identified bed bug infestation locations were:
- Hotels/motels – 75 percent (80 percent in 2011)
- College dorms – 47 percent (54 percent in 2011)
- Nursing homes – 46 percent (46 percent in 2011)
- Office buildings – 36 percent (38 percent in 2011)
- Schools and day care centers – 41 percent (36 percent in 2011)
- Hospitals – 33 percent (31 percent in 2011)
- Transportation (train/bus/taxi) – 21 percent (18 percent in 2011)
- Movie theaters – 10 percent (17 percent in 2011)
- Retail stores – 15 percent (21 percent in 2011)
- Libraries – 12 percent (8 percent in 2011)
How Dangerous Is The Situation?
While bed bugs have not been found to transmit infections to humans, they leave itchy bites after feeding on people’s blood, which can lead to secondary infections when victims scratch, opening themselves up to bacteria. This is especially problematic in hospitals, where there is a greater likelihood of catching the highly potent and contagious staph infection known as MRSA, says Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of the infection prevention and control program of Loyola University Health System in Chicago.
“You don’t need one more ingredient to increase your risk of infections in the hospital,” he says.
Although hospitals are putting a growing emphasis on strict cleanliness and sterilization protocols, bed bugs still arrive via the many patients and visitors going in and out of their emergency rooms and waiting areas.
The high instance of bed bugs in nursing homes is also concerning, he adds, because hospitals receive many transfers from such facilities, and elderly people often don’t exhibit the same telltale signs of bed bugs, which include red, raised, itchy lesions.
What To Do?
Make sure you really have bed bugs, not fleas, ticks or other insects
Don’t panic. You can compare your insect to the pictures on our Identifying bed bugs Web page or show it to your local extension agent. (Extension agents are trained in pest control issues and know your local area.)
Don’t immediately reach for the spray can.
Be comprehensive in your approach. Try other things first. If pesticides are needed, always follow label directions or hire a professional. There is help available to learn about treatment options.
Reduce the number of hiding places — Clean up the clutter.
A cluttered home provides more places for bed bugs to hide and makes locating and treating them harder. If bed bugs are in your mattress, using special bed bug covers (encasements) on your mattress and box springs makes it harder for bed bugs to get to you while you sleep. Leave the encasements on for a year. Be sure to buy a product that has been tested for bed bugs and is strong enough to last for the full year without tearing.
Kill bed bugs with heat, but be very careful.
Raising the indoor temperature with the thermostat or space heaters won’t do the job. Special equipment and very high temperatures are necessary for successful heat treatment. Black plastic bags in the sun might work to kill bed bugs in luggage or small items, if the contents become hot enough. Bed bugs die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F). To kill bed bugs with heat, the room or container must be even hotter to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding.