Bed bug infestations usually occur in areas where people sleep or spend significant periods of time, including apartments, hotels and dorm rooms -- such as the two dorm rooms at Reinhardt University that recently resulted in the treatment of the entire residence hall -- but the agency that inspects Bartow's 40 or so lodging facilities reports none of the reddish-brown, wingless creatures that reach only 4 to 5 millimeters in length.
"We've had some [bed bugs] reported but we went out to verify and could not locate any. As far as I know, we have not had any cases that have shown up," said Chris Chester, an environmental health specialist with the Bartow County Health Department.
C & C Exterminators, which covers Bartow, Gordon, Paulding, Cobb and Cherokee counties, has received no more than four reports of bed bugs in the last three months and the two Designated Certified Operator David Cline recalled were at rental properties, one house and an apartment.
"They're usually brought in. Typically we find them where people buy used mattresses, maybe even used beds, used furniture or people who travel a lot tend to get them, especially if you travel overseas or stay at hotels where people from overseas stay. A lot of times they'll bring them and you catch them there and bring them home in your luggage or something like that," Cline said. "You're actually going to be able to see them -- small, little black specks and usually you'll find them around the beds, bedposts. A lot of the time, you'll see them on the walls around the beds and if you're actually getting bit by them, you're going to have small little marks that resemble flea bites usually around your ankles or wrists."
C & C uses chemicals to eliminate bedbugs and recommends residents throw out infected mattresses and furniture.
Logan Boss, Georgia Public Health spokesman, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying the national and international resurgence in bed bugs, which have become resistant to available pesticides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from public health standpoint, is looking into increased bed bug activity over the last several years, Boss said.
"We're seeing more bed bugs and we believe that is primarily because of an increase in travel, both international and national travel. We also think it's because people are not familiar with bed bugs. The bed bug populations were pretty much reduced significantly in the second half of the last century but they've come back. Because the bed bug populations were reduced, people just didn't know a lot about them so people may not be looking for them and taking the necessary precautions to avoid them or to try and eliminate them," Boss said. "The other big thing is that bed bugs have become resistant to a lot of the pesticides that are currently used. Some of the pesticides that we used to eliminate bed bugs in the last century, like DDT, we can't use them anymore."
Bed bugs are similar to head lice and do not transmit infectious disease, but bite people, usually when they are sleeping, and leave a mark similar to that of a mosquito or flea -- a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and become infected if scratched.
"They do cause a lot of psychological and mental problems and stigma for people who experience bed bugs and I always tell people bed bugs can happen to anyone," Boss said. "Bed bugs can occur in five-star hotels, high-end condominium complexes just as well as a housing development."
In a joint statement on bed bug control, CDC and EPA officials offer these tips:
Preventing bed bug infestations
Bed bugs are successful hitchhikers, and move from an infested site to furniture, bedding, baggage, boxes and clothing. Although they typically feed on blood every five to 10 days, bed bugs can be quite resilient; they are capable of surviving over a year without feeding.
A few simple precautions can help prevent bed bug infestation in your home:
* Check secondhand furniture, beds and couches for any signs of bed bug infestation, as described below before bringing them home.
* Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs that eliminates many hiding spots. The light color of the encasement makes bed bugs easier to see. Be sure to purchase a high quality encasement that will resist tearing and check the encasements regularly for holes.
* Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.
* When traveling:
-- In hotel rooms, use luggage racks to hold your luggage when packing or unpacking rather than placing your luggage on the bed or floor.
-- Check the mattress and headboard before sleeping.
-- Upon returning home, unpack directly into a washing machine and inspect your luggage carefully.
Identifying bed bug infestations
Much of the time, a bed bug infestation is only suspected when bites appear on a person. Oftentimes, the bites are misidentified, thus allowing infestations to go unnoticed, which gives the bed bugs time to spread to other areas of the house.
When cleaning, changing bedding or staying away from home, look for:
* Dark spots that are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
* Eggs and eggshells, which are about 1 millimeter and white.
* Skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger, live bed bugs, and rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
Treating Bed Bug Infestations
Because bed bugs are resistant to pesticides, chemicals alone may not eliminate the pests. For best results, experts say incorporate a strategy that includes a variety of techniques and monitoring.
* Wash and dry bedding and clothing at high temperatures to kill bed bugs.
* Heat infested articles and/or areas through to at least 113 degrees for one hour. The higher the temperature, the shorter the time needed to kill bed bugs at all life stages.
* Cold treatments (below 0 degrees for at least 4 days) can eliminate some infestations. Again, the cooler the temperature, the less time needed to kill bed bugs.
* Use mattress, box spring and pillow encasements to trap bed bugs and help detect infestations.
Pesticides are one component of a comprehensive strategy for controlling bed bugs. Several classes of chemicals are registered for use against bed bugs. The chemicals within each class share a similar mode of action, or way in which the chemical affects the biological functions of a bed bug.
To read the complete statement, visit www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/Publications/Bed_Bugs_CDC-EPA_Statement.htm.