Protect yourself and your facility from bed bugs

Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
Ron Harrison, Ph.D.

Chicago may have found itself on top of Orkin's list of the top 50 bed bug cities, but a look at the list shows that these resilient pests have found themselves in every corner of the country.

For instance, this is the first year Orlando has ranked on Orkin's Bed Bug Cities List, which ranks cities by the number of bed bug treatments Orkin serviced from January through December 2015. Philadelphia is on the list for the first time since 2011, and several other Northeast cities made big jumps in the standings. Fourteen cities in the Midwest – more than any other region – are included in the ranking, including multiple cities in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky.

Here's a look at the top 10:

  1. Chicago

  2. Los Angeles

  3. Washington, D.C.

  4. New York

  5. Columbus, Ohio

  6. Philadelphia

  7. Detroit

  8. Cincinnati

  9. Richmond-Petersburg, Va.

  10. Baltimore

Bed bugs are not known to spread human diseases like many other pests, and some people have no reaction to bed bug bites. They can, however, leave red welts where they bite and cause allergic reactions, asthma and mental effects.

According to recent surveys by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 99.6% of pest professionals treated for bed bugs in 2015, and one out of five Americans has had a bed bug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered bed bugs at home or in a hotel.

Healthcare facilities aren't immune, either. More than a third of pest management companies reported treating a healthcare facility for bed bugs in 2014, according to a National Pest Management Association survey. What's more, that same study indicated three out of four pest management providers consider the bed bug as the most challenging pest to control.

But the truth is that anyone is at risk of running into these pests. Fortunately, there are steps you can take both inside and outside your healthcare facility and while traveling to help handle any bed bug infestations.

What to look for

Bed bugs are about the size and color of an apple seed, but don't expect to walk in on one hanging out in the open. You are more likely to find them in their favorite hiding places. They can be found in mattress seams, in the corners of box springs, under buckling wallpaper or in the edges of carpet.

Even if live bed bugs aren't found, you can still look for their calling cards – small, ink-colored stains or cast skins they leave behind on mattress seams and pictures, under seat cushions and behind headboards.

Should you find any of these signs, you should alert your pest management professional immediately.

What your staff can do

Your staff can be your eyes and also the first responders to any signs of bed bug activity. For this reason, it is essential that your staff is trained on how to recognize the signs of a bed bug infestation and how to respond to any issues. Ask your pest management provider to provide staff training, as many offer training for free and can supply educational materials such as tip sheets and checklists.

Also, establish a bed bug policy for your workers and guests that will encourage them to take preventive measures and report any possible infestations, whether at work or at home. Remember, employees must be vigilant even outside work hours so they don't bring bed bugs into your facility from home.

If you're in an assisted living facility, encourage your staff to talk with your patients/residents and be mindful of any complaints – remember, bed bugs are not a sign of uncleanliness or unsanitary conditions. Guests may bring personal belongings along with them, so be sure to inspect them and get rid of anything that is known to have been infested or is in the area where bed bugs were found.

Should bed bug activity be spotted, if possible, take the affected room – and the surrounding rooms – out of service immediately and don't disturb the area any more than you have to. Leave everything in these rooms and keep the scene untouched so that pest management professionals can diagnose the source of the problem and treat it thoroughly.

Bonus tips for traveling – SLEEP better at night

During travel, remember the acronym SLEEP when you travel:

  • Survey the hotel room for signs of an infestation. Look for black or brown spots on the edge of the mattress and behind the headboard. Remember, bed bugs can be found everywhere from roadside motels to five-star resorts.

  • Lift and look in bed bug hiding spots: the mattress, box spring, sheets and furniture, as well as pictures and even torn wallpaper.

  • Elevate luggage on a rack away from the bed and wall. The safest places are in the bathroom or on off the ground on hard furniture surfaces such as a desk.

  • Examine your luggage while repacking and once you return home from a trip.

  • Place all dryer-safe clothing from your luggage in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting after you return home.

Keep these tips in mind, and you and your facility will be more prepared to halt bed bug infestations before they start.

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, Ph.D., is Director of Technical Services for Orkin. Contact him at rharriso@orkin.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com for more information.  


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