Bedbug bites becoming bigger battle ~ Bug Busters USA bedbug control services
They’re back, and they’re bloodthirsty.
Bedbugs, not too long ago little more than a riff in a nursery rhyme, have returned with a vengeance in the United States and around the world.
And the problem only promises to get worse before it gets better.
“Our ability to stop the spread is absolutely nonexistent,” says bedbug expert Dini Miller, an entomologist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
No corner of the US has been spared, and the situation is similar in Canada, as seen in an international survey of almost 1000 pest control companies released over the summer by the University of Kentucky and the National Pest Management Association, which represents the pest control industry.
Roughly 95% of respondents in the US and 98% of those in Canada reported encountering bedbug infestations in the previous year, compared with about 25% of respondents in both countries before 2000. Cities are being harder hit than rural areas.
“We really are saying it’s a pandemic,” says Missy Henriksen, the association’s vice president of public affairs.
The situation has government policymakers, local officials, businesses, landlords and private homeowners all struggling to respond to apple-seed-sized insects that have demonstrated an extraordinary ability to multiply in the face of the best defenses that humans can muster.
Bedbugs were largely eradicated in the US and Canada during the 1940s and 1950s because of widespread use of the now-banned synthetic pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) but have made a comeback in recent years. The bugs already were growing resistant to DDT, and now they’ve become highly resistant to many of the more limited insecticides still available to combat them. Canada has even fewer approved insecticides than the US for addressing the problem, says Miller.
The bugs are not just turning up in beds. They can be found in chairs, sofas, electrical outlets, baseboards and crevices at homes, apartments, hotels, hospitals, college dorms, offices, movie theaters, high-end stores and more.
How do they get around? They don’t fly, but can easily travel from room to room and beyond by crawling or hitching a ride on people’s clothing or shoes, bedding, luggage, handbags and furniture.
The flat, brownish bugs, which do not transmit disease, generally come out at night to feed on human blood with a painless bite, often delivered when people are asleep. While people react differently, the bites can leave itchy, bloody welts. Miller says many doctors used to mistake them for scabies, and now too many are diagnosing bedbugs simply by eyeing the bites, without enough information about where and when the bites were delivered.
Other health effects include skin rashes and other allergic symptoms, as well as psychological effects like exasperation and irritation. Treatment of the bites typically involves symptomatic use of antihistamines and corticosteroids.
Getting rid of bedbugs is hugely difficult. Many pest control experts think they’re the hardest household pests to eradicate. Methods include insecticides, heat, steam, freezing and vacuuming, but can take time and be very costly.
The proliferation has people trying all sorts of questionable tactics, including bombarding their homes with chemicals approved only for outdoor use, and turning to businesses that aren’t equipped to handle bedbugs.
In August, the US Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides, issued a consumer alert warning people not to turn to companies that offer to control bedbugs with unrealistic promises of low cost and high effectiveness. It also warned people against using unapproved chemicals.
“Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bedbugs can make you, your family and your pets sick,” the agency warned. “It can also make your home unsafe to live in — and may not solve the bedbug problem.”
The Environmental Protection Agency held its first “bedbug summit” in 2009 to bring together experts on the problem, and is participating in a US government task force trying to educate the public and develop better eradication options. That can’t happen soon enough for some.
Officials in Ohio, home to some of the hardest-hit cities, asked the agency to approve an emergency exemption allowing indoor use of propoxur, which was banned for in-home use in 2007. The request, backed by dozens of other states, failed to win approval over the summer, but the agency has been asked to look at more information and reconsider.
Politicians are taking notice. Representative G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from North Carolina, has introduced legislation to provide states with more resources to educate health professionals about the problem and increase inspection, prevention and eradication programs. The legislation, known as the “Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite Act,” is expected to be reintroduced in 2011, says Butterfield spokesman Ken Willis.
Butterfield and Representative Don Young, a Republican from Alaska, are trying to get the word out about the problem. They’re inviting government officials, congressional staff, industry representatives and others to a four-hour Oct. 5 forum at the US Capitol complex to discuss options.
Miller says that whatever the government’s response, people and property managers need to start paying attention and changing habits.
For individuals, she says, that means taking steps like carefully inspecting their hotel room, being wary of secondhand furniture, checking clothing and luggage after a trip and watching where they put down a jacket or handbag at the movie theater.
“We can’t just go crazy and freak out over bedbugs,” Miller says. “We’re going to have to use all our rational faculties to deal with what is going to be a tedious process of keeping bedbugs out and then eradicating them when they get in.”
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