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The Problem with Bed Bugs

Dr. Stephanie Richards

Where are bed bugs found in the world?

Bed bugs are a global pest and can be found in North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

What species of bed bugs cause infestations in the United States?

In the United States, human-associated bed bug infestations are primarily due to Cimex lectularius. Cimex hemipterus is another species of bed bug that is found in tropical and subtropical climates.

Where can I come into contact with bed bugs?

Bed bugs go through several immature (nymphal) stages as they grow into adults. Both male and female bed bugs require blood as nutrition for growth and molting into progressively larger nymphal stages. Female bed bugs require blood to develop eggs. Hence, they are found in human dwellings, such as hotels, apartments, dormitories, houses and cruise ships. They are nocturnal insects and are found hiding in dark areas, such as mattress seams, headboards, cracks/crevices, behind walls and in and around clutter during the daytime. Bed bugs do not travel far from their place of hatching; however, they can hitchhike on items, such as luggage, that may be transported to new locations.

Can bed bugs make me sick?

Approximately, 48 pathogens have been identified in bed bug gut contents, excrement and/or saliva. However, bed bugs have not yet been shown to biologically transmit (through bites) any pathogens that cause human disease. A recent study showed that bed bugs can transmit the bacterial agent of trench fever in their excrement (stercorarian transmission), but more research is needed to evaluate the potential for transmission of additional pathogens.

Bed bug bites can leave itchy welts that can cause irritation and potentially lead to secondary infections. Systemic reactions have occurred in some individuals, resulting in symptoms, such as skin rashes, watery eyes, sweating, abdominal pain, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and lethargy. A medical professional should be consulted if you believe you are experiencing a severe reaction to bed bug bites. Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be prescribed by a medical professional to manage symptoms related to allergic reactions to bed bug bites.

Bed bugs may also be involved in mechanical transmission of pathogens, i.e., transferring bacteria or other type of pathogen from one place to another on their bodies.

How do I check for bed bugs when I am traveling or at home?

The first thing you should do when you enter a hotel room is pull back the sheets on the bed and look for fecal matter and blood spots in the crease of the mattress. In heavy infestations, you may even see bed bugs crawling on the bed seams. You may also inspect other areas of the room, such as bed frames, behind furniture, etc. If you suspect an infestation, leave the room immediately to minimize the chance you will transport bugs to another location with your luggage or other materials.

If you suspect a bed bug issue in your home, the same type of inspection can take place. You may choose to inspect baseboards, crevices, behind bed frames, behind pictures, etc. Bed bug control professionals can be consulted to verify an infestation. Bed bug detecting dogs trained to alert the handler upon smelling bed bugs are commonly used to assess the presence of bed bugs.

How can I get rid of bed bugs?

Bed bugs are difficult to control, since they hide in areas not easily treated by insecticides. As is the case for most pest infestations, proactive surveillance and targeted treatment at the beginning of an infestation is easier than reactive treatment when bed bug populations are abundant and widespread.

Bed bugs are difficult to control, since they hide in areas not easily treated by insecticides. As is the case for most pest infestations, proactive surveillance and targeted treatment at the beginning of an infestation is easier than reactive treatment when bed bug populations are abundant and widespread.

In most cases, reduction of clutter and other harborage areas is necessary in order to facilitate surveillance and targeted control and to help prevent re-infestation.

 

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