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Bedbugs are making a comeback in Illinois

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[February 25, 2009]  SPRINGFIELD -- Bedbugs are on the rise in Illinois after a dramatic decline in the 1940s and 1950s. A couple of reasons for the return are more worldwide travel and the fact that today's insecticides, although safer for people, are less effective in killing these bugs. Bedbugs are small, flat insects, usually reddish-brown and up to one-fourth-inch long. Bedbugs do not fly or hop but can move quickly across floors and walls. Bedbugs most commonly enter hotels or residences by "hitchhiking" on a suitcase or backpack, used furniture, or other objects moved from one building to another. Bedbugs can survive several months without feeding.

RestaurantAt night, bedbugs leave their hiding places -- in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, nightstands, curtains, couches and wall voids, and behind baseboards, door and window frames, and carpet edges -- to feed. The bugs feed on the blood of animals, including people and pets. The bug's beaklike mouth painlessly pierces its victim, injects saliva and sucks up the host's blood, in about three to five minutes.

"The Illinois Department of Public Health is seeing an increase in the number of calls from the public and from local health departments about bedbug infestations," said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director. "To help reduce this problem, I encourage everyone to learn the signs of bedbug infestations, how the bugs spread, what you can do to prevent getting them and what to do if you find bedbugs."

Although bedbugs are not known to transmit disease, their bites can cause an intense itch, and scratching could produce secondary infections. Bedbugs may be brought into well-maintained hotels and clean homes because all they need to survive is a place to hide and a host to supply their only food -- blood. New infestations may go undetected when only a few bedbugs are present, allowing the infestation to grow and spread.

Signs of infestation:

  • Spots of blood left on bed sheets indicate bedbug biting.

  • Brownish-black specks (feces) and bedbug "shells" (shed exoskeletons) indicate a bedbug infestation.

  • A peculiar musty raspberry odor from bedbug secretions may be noticed where many bedbugs are present.

How bedbugs are spread:

  • Bedbugs attach to luggage, backpacks, clothing, beds and furniture, and move when and where those objects are moved.

  • Bedbug outbreaks are often traced to travel, particularly travel in a country where bedbugs are common.

  • Use of secondhand furniture, particularly beds and couches, is another way bedbugs can be spread.

  • Also, bedbugs can quickly spread from one unit to the next in multi-unit dwellings such as apartment buildings.

  • To prevent getting bedbugs:

  • Keep all beds pulled slightly away from walls, furniture and curtains. Make sure bedding doesn't touch the floor. Wrap carpet tape or duct tape (sticky side out) around bed legs, or use traps, to prevent bedbugs from climbing onto beds.

  • Keep the floor under and around beds free of clutter.

  • Change sheets and pillow cases weekly. Use hot water for washing, or machine dry at medium or high heat.

  • Use fitted sheets on the mattress, or tuck sheets under the mattress.

  • Use light-colored sheets and check for discolored spots when removing them from the bed.

  • Look for signs of bedbugs along the seams of the mattress in places you stay (hotels, motels) and keep your bags and luggage off the floor and bed.

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  • Do not place anything (luggage, blankets, pillows, stuffed toys) that may contain bedbugs onto any bed. Be particularly careful when returning from a trip.

  • Only sleep on beds. Do not sleep on couches or in upholstered chairs.

  • Inspect all used furniture carefully for bedbugs before bringing it into a home -- do not scavenge furniture left on the street.

If there is a bedbug infestation:

  • Vacuum infested areas (including mattresses and box springs) and dispose of the contents in a sealed garbage bag or trash container.

  • Remove the pillows, sheets, blankets, mattress and box springs, and wash sheets and blankets. Dry blankets, sheets and pillows at medium or high heat.

  • Items that cannot be completely inspected and treated should be thrown out.

  • Tightly seal mattresses and box springs inside mattress encasements specially designed to exclude bedbugs.

  • Pesticides can be applied directly into cracks and crevices harboring bedbugs. Hiring a licensed pest management professional may be preferable to doing it yourself because effective control requires experience, time and special pesticide application equipment. Effective control of bedbugs will probably require more than one pesticide treatment.
    Owners and occupants have an important role and will need to assist the pest control professional. Affording access for inspection and treatment is crucial, and excess clutter that provides hiding places for bedbugs should be removed. Since bedbugs can move throughout a building, adjoining rooms and apartments should always be inspected, and treated if bedbugs are found.
    Do not apply pesticides to mattresses, bedding or furniture unless the pesticide's label specifically allows application to these items. Do not apply pesticides to surfaces of mattresses, bedding or furniture that will come in contact with people. Treatments such as "fogging" and "bug bombs" are ineffective against well-hidden bedbugs and may drive them into other rooms or apartments and spread the infestation. Pesticide applications should not be done unless bedbugs have been identified by a qualified specialist.


For more information on bedbugs, visit www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcbedbugs.htm.

[Text from Illinois Department of Public Health file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]


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