This information should be especially helpful to those of you living in New York, where the infestation seems to be greatest, but anyone who is traveling, staying in hotels or living in university/other public housing may benefit.
After more than 20 years of near extinction, bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) now seem to be everywhere in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now regards bed bugs as a "major problem." The reason for the big uptick seems to be increased international travel - these pests are hitching rides in our luggage. The good news is that bed bugs don't transmit disease - they're certainly unpleasant to have around, but they don't pose an immediate health risk.
You may have a bed bug infestation if:
- You see the bugs themselves - they are oval, flattened, brown, wingless insects that are about 1/4 inch long.
- When you get up in the morning you have red welts on your skin.
- You see blood and orangish-brown spots of bug feces on pillows and sheets.
- There is an unpleasant, pungent odor in or near the bed.
To prevent an infestation, try these measures:
- When traveling, check behind hotel bed frames and under mattress covers for orangish-brown fecal spots.
- When you get home, wash all your clothes in hot water and store suitcases in a plastic bag in a hot car trunk or attic.
- Use a mattress cover designed to suppress bed bugs.
Getting rid of bed bugs isn't easy, as they seem to be developing resistance to most natural pesticides. If you have bed bugs, get professionals to handle the extermination, and ask them to first try pumping hot air into your bedroom - bed bugs can't survive extreme heat.