RALEIGH – North Carolina environmental health officials are advising residents and travelers to learn about bedbugs and ways to avoid them after the recent surge of bedbug infestations nationwide.
“Bedbugs are returning with a vengeance as recent reports of them in hotels, college dormitories and apartments attest,” said Dr. Nolan Newton, Public Health Pest Management Section chief. “These pests can be anywhere, so it is important to stop them at the door. While bedbugs are not believed to carry diseases, their bites can itch, leading to scratching, which could lead to a skin infection.
They can multiply fast – creating an infestation that requires costly means to remedy. It is important to take simple, easy measures to prevent them from traveling to your home.”
Several preventive steps can help stop bedbugs from taking over your home. If you travel or vacation in hotels or rental properties, inspect your sleeping area. Check for bedbugs by lifting the mattress from the box spring and checking the gap for either live bugs or black spots staining the mattress, which could be the remnants of digested blood. Bedbugs may also be found along seams, piping, under buttons, labels, behind the headboard, along the frame or in cracks and crevices of adjacent furniture.
Newton added that bedbugs are excellent hitchhikers as they can travel on just about anything, including luggage, backpacks, clothes or shoes.
“While travelers may encounter bedbugs more frequently, no one is immune from them,” he said. “People who buy used furniture, clothing or bedding need to check for signs of bedbugs before bringing the items into their homes. It is also important not to bring in items found on the side of the street or road unless they have been thoroughly inspected for bedbugs. This is especially true for used mattresses and box springs.”
Adult bedbugs can be up to a quarter of an inch long, about the size of an apple seed and are dark brown with a flattened body. They hide in tight places on or near the bed. Bedbugs are night feeders, crawling out from their daytime hiding places to feed. They can live up to 12 months without food. Each bug may bite more than once, and a pattern of bites clustered or in a line is not uncommon.
“Prevention is key,” adds Newton. “But trying to handle a bedbug infestation by yourself can be difficult and sometimes dangerous if insecticides are used incorrectly. Instead, contact a licensed pest control company familiar with bed bug treatments. If you encounter bedbugs in a hotel or motel, report it to the local health department.”
For more information regarding the control of bedbugs, go to the Public Health Pest Management’s Controlling Bedbugs website at www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/phpm/Bedbug Control.htm or the N.C.State University Department of Entomology website www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/ Urban/bedbugs.htm. A free, public database of user-submitted bed bug reports from across the United States and Canada can be found at bedbugregistry.com. Founded in 2006, the site has collected about 20,000 reports covering 12,000 locations.