NEW MADRID COUNTY, Mo. -- According to New Madrid County's Environmental Public Health Specialist Jon Wofford, an increase in reports of bed bugs have been made over the last few years.
Most recently, several area homes have been infested.
"Five years ago, you hardly heard anything about this," explained Wofford.
Wofford made clear that though there has been an increase in local reports, there are still under 10 cases per year in New Madrid County alone. Reports have also been made in Stoddard, Dunklin and Pemiscot Counties.
Most cases are primarily in hotels. Bed bugs tend to catch a ride on luggage and are generally transferred from one location to another by that method.
Reports of bed bugs have increased as travel has increased and they became more prominent in areas that receive large amounts of tourism.
Fortunately, bed bugs, otherwise known as Cimex lectularius, do not actually transmit any diseases, but are more of a nuisance and can cause allergic reactions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these parasites need the blood from warm blooded hosts which unfortunately tends to be humans. A female lays about five eggs per day and generally hide in dark, sheltered areas such as mattress seams, under base boards, in head boards, bed frames, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, and behind wallpaper. They are considered experts at hiding.
Their habitation does not depend on the cleanliness of the areas where they are found and have been sited in five star hotels and resorts.
"They don't travel too far away from where humans are," clarified Wofford. " They will not be too far from where you sit or sleep."
Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, small, flat and range from 1 to 7millimeters in size. They can live several months without a meal.
The CDC explains that one of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by bite marks on the face, neck, arms, or other body parts while sleeping.
Because these bite marks can take up to 14 days to develop and some people never show physical signs of a bite, it is essential to look for other signs of infestation such as:
* bed bug exoskeletons,
* bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
* rusty--colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
* a sweet musty odor.
If you have been bitten by a bed bug, it is important that you do not scratch the area in order to avoid infection. Topical antiseptic creams can also help reduce the chance of infection.
Many decades ago when bed bugs were found in a home, the entire residence would have to be quarantined. Fortunately, these days, not such drastic measures are needed.
Wofford recommends several methods to help get rid of infestations including the spraying of insecticide by a professional, washing bedding in hot water that exceeds 130 degrees and wrapping materials in plastic, air tight containers.
He also made clear that it takes time and effort to rid a location of the pests and they should be controlled for one or two months before the infestation is considered completely gone.
It is recommended to contact local public health departments if an infestation is detected.