Don't let the name fool you. Bedbugs spread beyond sleeping quarters: Office infestations doubled in the past year, according to a survey released Tuesday.
Infestations are becoming more and more common in offices and schools, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at its Epidemic Intelligence Services conference in Atlanta on Tuesday. Although bedbugs do not transmit any diseases, their bites can be very itchy -- and getting rid of the bugs can be a pain.
Last year, 38 percent of exterminators nationwide responded to bedbug infestations of office buildings, more than double the 17 percent that did in 2010, according to the CDC officials who released the figures at the conference.
Thirty-six percent of surveyed exterminators treated schools and day-care centers last year, more than triple the 10 percent that did in 2010.
Meanwhile, 33 percent of them treated hospitals last year, almost triple the 12 percent that did in 2010.
Bedbugs are small, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people or animals. The rust-colored nuisances can grow to as long as a quarter-inch (7 millimeters). Travelers typically transport bedbugs, according to the CDC, as the vermin can hide in the lining of suitcases and sneak into folded clothes before infesting houses when people unpack.
Most cities have bedbug problems today, Michael F. Potter, professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky, told MSNBC in 2010. Any place you have a lot of people, or a lot of movement of people, you have bedbugs.
If bedbugs are so ubiquitous, how can you prevent them?
1) Check all secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs of bedbug infestation.
- Look for reddish-brown or rust-colored spots on sheets and mattresses, especially before you lay down in a hotel bed, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You can also look for skins or even live bugs underneath the mattress.
2) Use a protective case that covers your mattress and box spring completely.
- Bedbugs are excellent hiders. A mattress cover eliminates many of their hiding places. In addition, such covers are usually light in color, which makes bedbugs easier to spot.
3) Reduce clutter around your bed.
- Bedbugs typically live within 8 feet (2.5 meters) of your bed. Cleaning the area removes many of their hiding places.
4) When traveling, use luggage racks to hold your luggage instead of putting it on the floor.
5) When returning home, unpack your luggage directly into the washing machine and inspect it for any signs of bedbugs.
If your home does become infested with bedbugs, it can be very difficult to exterminate them because of their quick reproduction. A female bedbug can lay five to seven eggs per week, which take about 10 days to hatch. Bedbugs can survive for months without feeding, so getting rid of them often takes multiple treatments, according to the New York City Department of Health.
Although bedbug bites do not transmit diseases, they can be very itchy. Their bite marks look like mosquito or flea bite marks, and they appear from one to several days after the bite, according to the CDC.
If you notice bedbugs in your home, there are several steps you can take to get rid of them.
1) Call an exterminator.
- Bed bugs are resilient, and pesticides are usually necessary to get rid of them. Bug bombs are not effective against bedbugs, according to the NYC Department of Health.
2) Wash any and all clothing, bedding cushions, and fabric in hot water.
- Heat kills the bugs. Put anything you cannot wash into a garbage bag and stick it in the sun.
3) Cover your bedposts in petroleum jelly.
- Bedbugs cannot fly. Putting jelly on your bedposts makes it much more difficult for them to crawl into your bed.
- It usually takes several treatments to get permanently rid of bedbugs, and it could take months before they are gone for good.