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Bed bugs: How to keep them from coming to a bed near you

By Erica Yost

Rowan County Health Department

Recently throughout Rowan County, the spreading of bed bugs has surfaced to the public’s attention. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are a nuisance in all areas of the world, even in the wealthiest of countries.

Bed bugs can cause substantial property loss, expenses, and inconvenience. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bed bugs should not be considered as a medical or public health hazard. Bed bugs are not known to spread disease.

Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite marks appear most often on exposed areas of the upper body such as on one’s face, neck, arms and hands. However, it is not unusual to have bites on the lower body, as well.

Bed bugs are scientifically known as Cimex lectularius, and can range from 1 millimeter to 7 millimeters in size. After they feed, their bodies swell and become a reddish-clear color. Immature bed bugs are known as nymphs and usually shed their skin at least five times before reaching the level of a mature bed bug.

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. They hide anywhere and everywhere, including the seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, wallpaper, and/or in the cracks and crevices of buildings. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time.

Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

The best way to prevent these annoying, micro-sized pests is to regularly inspect your home to detect signs of an infestation, as well as wash your clothes promptly after staying at places such as hotels and other residences. When washing your clothes, you need to set the washer and dryer for the highest heat setting possible in order to kill nymph and bed bugs in the adult stage.

Signs of a possible infestation within your home may include rust-colored blood spots that are visible on your clothes or bed linens, which are a result of the bed bug’s blood-filled fecal matter.

One may also experience a sweet-musty odor that lingers in your home, as well as the existence of exoskeletons that are left after the bed bugs have molted. It is important to be aware of these things so you can stop an infestation before it causes too much damage to your property.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture Pest Control Division advises that treatment (chemical or heat) is dependent upon the level of infestation. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or a professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs.

The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation. If you have questions or concerns regarding bed bugs, please contact Rowan County Environmental Health, which is located at 402 N. Main St., Salisbury, or call them at 704-216-8525.

Erica Yost is an intern with the Rowan County Health Department.

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