The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department has collaborated with Lexington Fayette Urban County Government to prepare for a response to concerns in the community regarding bed bug infestations. Although bed bug infestations have not been common in the United States for decades, a nation-wide resurgence has been seen recently. Factors that may be related to the increase in bed bug infestations include the use of less effective, safer pest control chemicals, the increase of international travel and the market in used furniture.
Bed bugs are about ¼ inch long and reddish-brown with oval, flattened bodies. They are easily mistaken for ticks or cockroaches. They feed on the blood of people and animals, mostly at night.
The Health Department has investigated 19 complaints from constituents to date in 2006 in various areas of the city. This is a more than two fold increase from the 7 complaints investigated in 2005. Bed bugs are not considered to be a serious health threat. There have been no documented cases of disease caused by bed bugs; however, bed bug bites can cause uncomfortable skin irritations that may lead to anxiety and embarrassment. The problems in Lexington so far have been seen in residential and dormitory settings, although hotels, vehicles, shelters, and just about any place with upholstered furniture where people may sit or sleep could potentially be at risk for infestation. The common misconception with bed bug infestations is that they are associated with poverty and unsanitary conditions, which is not true. These pests are non-discriminate, moving easily between walls, ceilings, floors, as well as hitch-hiking on clothing in order to remain close to humans.
The Health Department is working with other Lexington Fayette Urban County Government agencies to develop a mass educational effort targeted at travelers, hotel managers, dormitories, apartment residents, apartment managers, human services workers, pest control companies, childcare workers, and the general public. Though educational needs among target groups may vary, the effort is intended to help people recognize the signs of infestation early so proper treatment can be done before the problem spreads to another location.
To prevent bed bug infestations, you may take the following precautions:
• Do not pick up any second hand furniture or mattresses/box springs from the roadside or by dumpsters.
• If you have received furniture from a rental service, always check the seams and any crevices for bed bugs.
• When traveling check all hotel or motel rooms thoroughly before setting your luggage on the floor or bed.
• Do not sit on furniture or lay in beds where you suspect there may be a problem.
• While cleanliness is not a major factor in fighting bed bug infestations, it is a good idea to minimize the clutter around your home, or in your room.
Once bed bugs are introduced into a building, they often spread from room to room. Thorough inspections to determine the scope of the problem are necessary so all affected areas can be treated properly to prevent further spread.
To report problems with bed bugs or to receive additional information on identification and treatment of bed bugs, please contact the Health Department at 231-9791 or visit our website at www.lexingtonhealthdepartment.org.