Wisconsin’s Bedbug Infestation: Tiny Parasites Bugging Residents

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Home / Wisconsin’s Bedbug Infestation: Tiny Parasites Bugging Residents
Bedbugs are small, flat insects that can hide in small cracks. Image by Jiří Humpolíček

Bedbugs are small, flat insects that can hide in tiny cracks. Image by Jiří Humpolíček

Wisconsin has seen an increase in bedbugs over the last two years, and it has residents complaining. These tiny insects feed mainly on human’s blood, biting exposed skin of sleeping people and animals.

Bedbugs are reddish-brown, don’t have any wings, and are about 1mm to 7mm, which is about the size of Lincoln’s head on the penny, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Dan Koralewski, a community health environmentalist in West Allis, told FOX News that in the past two years he has been receiving calls two to three times a week regarding bedbugs.

Where do Bedbugs Come From?

One myth regarding bedbugs is that the bedbugs develop because of unclean conditions in a home. Although these annoying little bugs have been a problem in developing countries, they are also making their way into five-star hotels.

Bedbugs like to hang out where people sleep, and only come out at night. During the day, they hide in cracks and crevices, behind wall paper, in box springs, in the seams of mattresses, headboards, and many other places. According to the CDC, bedbugs have been known to travel up to 100 feet at night; however, they prefer to stay within eight feet of a sleeping person or animal.

So how do you know if you have bedbugs? Here are some common indicators;

  • You may find the discarded shell – the bugs molt, and leave the exoskeleton behind.
  • You may find the bugs themselves, in the folds of the mattress or in sheets.
  • You may find rusty-colored blood spots on your mattresses or furniture. (That’s not a blood-stain, it’s bedbug excrement. They eat blood so they leave blood-colored droppings behind.)

Bedbugs do bite, but it may be hard to tell if you have been bitten by one, especially if you cannot find any other signs of bedbugs.

Don’t let the Bedbugs Bite!

The old saying goes, “good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite!” – That may be harder than you might think.

Bedbugs are smart; when they bite, they inject a anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents you from realizing that you are being bitten. In fact, you may not even notice the bites the next morning or later – bite marks may not appear until several days after the initial bite.

There are some things you can do to make sure you aren’t sleeping with bedbugs.

  • If you are in a hotel, inspect the mattresses and place your luggage on tables instead of on the floor.
  • When buying secondhand items, especially mattresses and upholstered furniture, thoroughly inspect them for signs of bedbugs.

Get Rid of Bedbugs

Bedbugs bite in a line or a cluster, although itchy, they don't cause disease or illness. Image by  Andybrookestar

Bedbugs bite in a line and/or a cluster, although itchy, they don’t cause disease or illness. Image by Andybrookestar

Decoded Science contacted Dan Koralewski MHS, RS, community health envrionmentalist II of the West Allis Health Department in Wisconsin, to ask how victims of the bedbug plague can treat their problem, and he responded,

“Regarding treatment, we always recommend that an individual hire a licensed pest control company to eliminate a bedbug infestation. While it can be costly, bedbugs are difficult to eliminate and you have to have someone that knows what they are doing when conducting treatment. Usually a pest control company will use a pesticide application with a 2nd application after about 30 days. Sometimes, they may use “heat treatment”. This is a process in which the dwelling unit is super-heated to 130 degrees to kill the bedbugs. Of course this takes specialized equipment and costs more as well, but it is very effective.
We do not recommend any over-the-counter pest sprays from a hardware store…. basically these products may kill the bedbugs they contact directly but do little else as far as providing residual protection.

As far as any health concerns… right now, the only health concern is possible secondary infection of bite locations from itching, etc. In other words bedbugs do not transmit any diseases such as West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, etc.”

Bedbugs: Annoying But Not Dangerous

While bedbugs can occur anywhere, they are more common in places where there is a high turn-over rate of people, such as hotels, homeless shelters, dormitories, apartment complexes, and military barracks. Due to their small and flat nature, bedbugs are easily transported via people. They can hide in luggage, clothes, towels, and many other places, which makes it very difficult to figure out where the bedbugs came from! You can treat the bites with an antiseptic spray or lotion to help stop the itch, but to get rid of bedbugs in your home, take the advice above, and hire a professional.

Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bed Bug Frequently Asked Questions. (2013). Accessed September 3, 2013.

FOX News. Bedbug Infestations on the rise in Wisconsin. (2013). Accessed September 3, 2013.

Mayo Clinic. Bedbugs. (2012). Accessed September 3, 2013.

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