Reports of bed bugs limited here, but caution still urged for residents

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You may have heard a lot about them, but as reports of bed bugs circulate around the country, Switzerland County residents are being urged to take precautions against their spread.

“They’re really more of a nuisance than a health threat,” Dr. Scott Frede, Switzerland County Health Officer said. “But people need to make sure that when they travel they take precautions not to carry the bugs back into the county and their homes.”

Dr. Frede said that there had been one isolated report of bed bugs being found at a county school, but he stressed that his office and the health department has not received any reports of bed bugs being found in public areas of the county.

“I’m sure that they (bed bugs) exist in private homes, but they are all over the country,” Dr. Frede said. “We have no reports of them in hotels or other places here, but people still need to be cautious.”

Although bed bugs virtually disappeared from this country after World War II, they have still existed in other countries around the world until reappearing in this country over the past couple of years.

People who travel and stay in hotels in others areas should be on the lookout for bed bugs. Like other insects they tend to scurry and hide once the lights come on, so people should carefully pull back the blankets on the bed, and then turn on the lights in the room and watch for bugs.

It was noted that the bugs can be easily transported, so people staying in hotels should be careful not to put luggage on the floor or lay clothing on the floor; because the bugs can get into those items and be transported back to a private home.

If bed bugs are found in private homes, they need to wash all of the affected sheets and other items in hot water in order to kill the bugs.

As for people being bitten by bed bugs, Dr. Frede said that most of the time if a person is bitten, there may be a small localized reaction, just like most insect bites.

“There’s no clinical syndrome that’s caused by bed bugs,” Dr. Frede said. “In fact, the CDC’s statement is that they are not considered a medical public health hazard, because they’re not known to spread any disease – but they are extremely annoying.”

Adult bed bugs are about 3/16th-inch long, and are reddish-brown with oval, flattened bodies. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture says that bed bugs are often confused with ticks or cockroaches, but are smaller.

The real problem with bed bugs is that a female usually lays two eggs per day, and can lay hundreds over her lifetime. When the eggs are first laid, they are sticky, which causes them to adhere to surfaces, which makes them very easy to transport from one area to another.

So what can be done?

Dr. Frede says that although they are not dangerous to a person’s health, people with school children need to be very aware of how children share items – and parents need to talk with their kids about not sharing clothing items or swapping things like backpacks.

“When you think about how schools go, a few bed bugs could ‘hitch hike’ from an infested home on a student’s clothing or backpack, similar to how lice spread,” he said. “It’s very important that parents be vigilant about washing clothing in hot water and making sure that backpacks and gym bags are cleaned regularly. If there’s of old clothing in a gym bag, they could be carried into a school. That’s a common scenario.”

Dr. Frede said that most people who have a bed bug infestation in their home probably know it’s happening, because they are easy to identify.