Bedbug infestations growing in certain settings, survey finds


In a study released Wednesday, Canadian scientists detected drug-resistant MRSA bacteria in bedbugs from three hospital patients from a Vancouver neighborhood. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
August 17, 2011

Just as students head back to college and families finish summer vacations comes the latest bad news from pest control companies: Bedbug infestations are getting worse and becoming more common in some places, including dorms, hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, office buildings, and schools and day-care centers.

According to a survey released Wednesday by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, pest control companies say there has been double-digit growth in infestations in the past year.

About 54 percent of pest companies reported treating bedbugs in college dorms, compared with 35 percent in 2010; 80 percent reported treating hotels, compared with 67 percent the year before, and 36 percent report treating schools and day-care settings for the bugs, more than triple the 10 percent in 2010.

A spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association said rapidly growing bedbug populations as well as heightened public awareness were the likely causes for the increases.

“With bedbug populations spreading, it’s important that people understand each and every one of us has the potential to get bedbugs,” said spokeswoman Missy Henriksen. “This survey underscores how widespread the problems with bedbugs are becoming and that pest professionals are treating for them in more and more a-typical locations. If individuals haven’t already started taking precautionary measures to protect against bed bugs, the time to start is now.”

The survey also found that some customers who attempt to get rid of the pest themselves often engage in dangerous practices, including using flammable products such as kerosene, alcohol, gasoline or diesel fuel.

In July, an overheated chimney apparently caused a fire in a southwestern Ohio home after the owner attempted to heat the house up to 140 degrees in an attempt to get rid of bedbugs the family had inadvertently brought back from a trip, according to news reports. The fire caused major damage and several firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion at the scene.

The findings were based on a survey of more than 400 pest control companies or professionals across the country.

Lena H. Sun is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on health.
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