Part I- Bed Bugs, a growing crisis

Saturday, August 4, 2018
The life cycle of the bed bug. Although they are very small, all stages of the bed bug, including the eggs, can be seen with the naked eye.
Photos provided by Missouri DHSS website

How many people actually know what is meant by, ďSleep tight, donít let the bed bugs bite!Ē Bed bugs have been around for hundreds of years, but for nearly fifty years, between WWII and 1990, they were almost non-existent. However, since 1990, there has been a resurgence that has become an epidemic in the United States. In 2011, CBS News reported that more than $250 million a year was spent on fighting bed bugs and that amount is rising. Awareness, education and cooperation from every citizen is the only way to rid communities of these biting, pesky parasites.

In 2011, a National Bed Bug Summit was held in Washington, D.C., and today, states are forming Bed Bug Task Forces to educate and implement a plan to fight the infestation that has infiltrated their cities and communities, large and small. But, like the family that doesnít like to talk about the crazy aunt living in the attic, communities donít like to admit they have a bed bug problem and try to keep it quiet. However, this silence only creates an even larger and more expensive problem.

In 2017, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) launched a Bed Bug Task Force in the Bootheel region of the state for the purpose of better addressing the problem in Missouri. Tackling the problem through education, prevention and implementation is the best way to eliminate an infestation. Clean or dirty, rich or poor, single family dwelling or business, bed bugs are not prejudiced; they will catch a ride on anything from a purse to a shoe, and once in the home or business, they make for horrible boarders.

They can be found in homes, hotels, public transit, schools, businesses and many other places where people congregate. Thatís where they can catch a ride on clothing, in luggage, on furniture or other personal items. They can also move through walls to new areas throughout a home or building, such as an apartment complex.

The first step to tackling the problem is knowing how to identify the small, blood-sucking parasite. They feed on blood to grow, and they mainly come out at night, hiding in cracks and crevices during the day. However, when an infestation is present, they can be seen during the day as well. All stages of bed bugs can be seen easily. The eggs and early stage larvae are very small. The eggs are white or clear and will be glued to surfaces. The larvae or instars, a second step in their growth, can be varying sizes depending on what stage they are in. They will be light colored unless they have recently had a blood meal. Then there are the adults, which are flat, reddish colored, and about the size of an apple seed.

Second, where will you find them in the home? Check in or near the bed, in mattress seams, along the box springs, bed frames, head and foot boards, as well as night stands. Look along the baseboards, wood moldings, furniture such as chairs, couches, or tables. Search in or on curtains, clothing or any other fabric items that have folds or gaps. Look inside switch plates, outlets, electronics such as phones, computers, televisions, stereos, etc. And, they love areas with lots of clutter because there are plenty of places to hide.

According to studies that have been done, bed bugs may bite, but they do not spread disease to other people like the tick or mosquito. In fact, their bites are usually painless; however, itís the reaction people have to the bite that causes the trouble. Some may be mild, and the victim will go without any treatment, but the bite will leave an opening in the skin, and if that opening becomes infected it might become a problem. Keep the bite clean until it heals, and everything should be fine.

Over the next several weeks, the Missouri State Bed Bug Task Force (MSBBTF) will be providing important information about how to detect, control and prevent bed bug infestations. Information will be provided about how individuals and area businesses can help in controlling the problem. For more information, go to https://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/bedbugs/

Laura Ford is a member of the MSBBTF.

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