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Bedbugs Can Infest Your Office, Too

By Randy DotingaHealthDay Reporter
MSN Health News 

THURSDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) — Add bedbugs to your list of potential occupational health hazards. A new report reveals nearly half of the employees of a U.S. government office in Tennessee were bitten by the blood-thirsty invaders while at work.

A bedbug-detecting German shepherd confirmed the infestation at an unidentified building in Clarksville, Tenn., last September, and investigators concluded that at least 35 workers had suffered bites. Although one woman had bite marks all over her body, the bugs didn’t cause serious health problems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Bedbugs can easily expand their territory beyond bedrooms, said Michael Potter, professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “They start in homes and beds, and as people move about, they get transported into office buildings, schools, libraries, movie theaters, retail stores, you name it.”

Clarksville, home to about 125,000 people in north Tennessee, is one of many cities combating bedbugs in nonresidential settings in recent years. Bedbug infestations have soared since 2000 across the United States, sending even customers of luxury hotels and upmarket clothing stores into a panic.

A 2011 survey of U.S. pest control companies found that 38 percent had responded to infestations at office buildings, up from 17 percent the year before. Treatments at schools and day-care centers rose to 36 percent from 10 percent, and visits to hospitals jumped from 12 percent of their jobs to almost one-third.

Bedbugs bite people, often at night, and become engorged with their blood. The bites cause welts, itching and swelling. However, bedbugs do not carry disease like some other insects.

The building in question serves children and has 76 employees, said Dr. Jane Baumblatt, a CDC epidemic intelligence services officer based in Tennessee. Employees began reporting bites and itching last June, she said, and the state health department responded.

Theories about the source of the bites included scabies and fleas. But a German shepherd, one of many dogs around the country trained to detect bedbugs, found them in cubicles and offices within the building, Baumblatt said. Also, dermatologists confirmed that the bites were from bedbugs.

Baumblatt interviewed 61 employees and found that 35 had suffered from bites, often on their legs. “It wasn’t that severe. It was more of a nuisance than anything,” Baumblatt said.

“The anxiety was that people didn’t know what it was,” she said. “Once people figured out they were bedbugs, they were relieved.”

The office brought in a pest control company to rid the office of bedbugs and performed steam cleaning, Baumblatt said.

Potter, the entomologist, said bedbugs prefer beds and stationary furniture such as couches and recliners because they don’t like disruption when they feed on people. But they may be transported to offices, day-care centers or myriad other locations in personal belongings such as backpacks, briefcases and purses.

Once an office becomes infested, managers may not want to tell workers in order to avoid a panic, he said. “In the best of all worlds, the office would inform the employees that some bedbugs have been spotted and they have a pest control company that’s hopefully involved in dealing with things,” he said.

However, Potter added, “nothing is easy when it comes to bedbugs.”

The report was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the CDC’s annual Epidemic Intelligence Services conference in Atlanta.

Leaving Bed Bugs Behind When You Move

By Jim Stavropoulos

If you think that moving is easier than getting rid of bed bugs, think again. Unless you are leaving everything you own behind in your old residence, all you’re really accomplishing by moving is taking the bed bugs to a new location with you. It is always better to eliminate a bed bug infestation before you move. If you absolutely have to move, you need to take precautions as to not bring the bed bugs with you. If your infestation is mild and isolated to your bed, chances are you will be able to leave the bed bugs behind when you move.


Diligence in packing is the number one way to avoid bringing bed bugs with you when you move. There are some very simple, but very important steps you need to take while packing to ensure that you leave the bed bugs behind.

Purchase mattress encasements for each mattress and each box spring you will be taking with you on your move. Install them only on the day of the move.

Have a strong led flashlight handy for the inspection.

Wash and dry all the clothing you are taking with you on the hottest dryer setting possible. Pack them in clear plastic bags labeled “CLEAN”.

Repeat the step above for all your linens, pillows and other plush or fabric items you will be taking with you. If the items are already clean just run them through the dryer for 20 minutes. It is the hot setting in the dryer that will kill the beg bugs.

Everything that cannot be laundered should be examined very closely for bed bugs and then packed away in plastic bags. Books, picture frames, small appliances, trinkets or decorations – anything at all that a bed bug could live in or that was present at an infested location.

How to handle the items that cannot be laundered.

If the infestation is mild, you can get away by very carefully inspecting all the items. Pay special attention to items that are near the bed. You can use a product labeled for bed bugs from your local hardware store and spray all cracks and crevices and screw holes on the bed frame and head board.

Another option for those items that were near the bed is treating them with Nuvon strips or Hot-Shot-No-Pest Strips. You will have to pack the items in a bag loosely and seal it with the strip inside. The bag will have to stay sealed for a minimum of two weeks for it to work. Longer than two weeks is ideal. Make sure you follow the label of any product you use.

If the couch has been used for sleeping or has any signs of bed bug activity it will be very difficult to ensure that it is free of bed bugs. A licensed pest control expert should be contacted to treat it for you.

The Day You Move

When Moving Day finally does come around, there are some additional precautions that you need to take to be sure that you leave all the bed bugs behind. They include your pets as well as your family.

Bathe all pets on the day of your move. Keep them outside after their bath so they don’t go back in the infested home and pick up more bugs before you leave.

Make sure all your family members shower and put on clean clothes on your way to your new home. Pack the dirty clothes in a plastic bag labeled “DIRTY” to be washed later.

Make sure to empty all your furniture. Tables, cabinets, dressers – anything that has space to store things inside of it. Also remove all the drawers from any furnishings that have them. Take all the cushions off your couches and chairs. Once the furniture is as bare and empty as you can get it, inspect it thoroughly for bed bugs.

Before taking away your mattress and box spring install the encasements you have already purchased.

Other Things You Can Do

Aside from the precautions mentioned above, there are a few other things that you should do to make sure that the bed bugs you’re leaving behind do not become a problem for someone else. If allowed to spread, bed bugs can easily take over entire apartment complexes or duplexes very quickly.

Make sure your landlord or property manager knows there are bed bugs in the house or apartment you are leaving. They should contact a licensed pest control professional to have the unit properly treated as soon as it becomes vacant so that the bed bugs do not spread beyond that unit.

If you are throwing away any of your furniture that may be infested, destroy it so that it is not salvageable from the dumpster or curbside. This will prevent anyone else from bringing home with them the bed bugs that may be lurking inside of it.

The best defense against bed bugs is a good offense. Educate yourself about bed bugs by reading any informational material that you can find. Know what they look like, how they are spread and the living conditions they need in order to live and thrive. The more you know, the more prepared you are to stop bed bugs in their tracks before they have time to get started.

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