Federal Agencies Convene Summit to Beat Back Bed Bugs

WASHINGTON, DC, January 31, 2011 (ENS) – In response to public concern about the rising incidence of bed bugs in the United States, the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup will hold a two-day National Bed Bug Summit that opens Tuesday in Washington.

During the meeting, panels will discuss bed bug initiatives, identify gaps in knowledge and outline suggested ideas for improving control on a community-wide basis.

Summit participants, which will include officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Defense, and National Institutes of Health, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will develop recommendations for a national strategy on bed bug control.

The meeting, which will be held at Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, will focus on what is being done to combat the problem at federal, state and local levels.

Participants will share information about improvements in prevention and control techniques, the state of bed bug knowledge and research needs, and controlling bed bugs in structured settings, such as schools, and multi-family and public housing.

This will be the second Bed Bug Summit that EPA has participated in. Since the first in April 2009, the agency has helped coordinate the activities of the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup and made recommendations for research, the role of government in combating bed bugs, consumer education and communication, and the role of property owners and managers.

The bed bug summit is also available via webinar. Click here for instructions for signing on to the webinar along with the agenda.

Michael Potter, extension entomologist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, explains on his extensive website that bed bug infestations were common in the United States before World War II, but with improvements in hygiene, and the widespread use of DDT during the 1940s and ‘50s, bed bugs all but vanished. http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef636.asp

But these small, brown, flat wingless insects that feed solely on the blood of animals remained prevalent in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, and in recent years they have made a comeback in the United States.

Bed bugs and their droppings (Photo courtesy University of Minnesota Dept. of Entomology)

“They are increasingly being encountered in homes, apartments, hotels, motels, health care facilities, dormitories, shelters, schools, and modes of transport. Other places where bed bugs sometimes appear include movie theaters, laundries/dry cleaners, furniture rental outlets and office buildings,” says Potter.

“Immigration and international travel have undoubtedly contributed to the resurgence of bed bugs in the U.S. Changes in modern pest control practice – and less effective bed bug pesticides – are other factors suspected for the recurrence,” he says.

Bed bugs can enter homes by latching onto used furniture, luggage and clothing, and by traveling along connecting pipes and wiring. Although bed bugs and their bites are a nuisance, they are not known to spread disease.

Dr. Stephen Kells, assistant professor, and Jeff Hahn, extension professor, with the University of Minnesota Department of Entomology offer a short guide on what bedbugs look like, and how to inspect and sanitize belongings.

Many people just want to discard all luggage and clothing after discovering an infestation, but Kells and Hahn say this is unnecessary. “The key is to contain all items suspected of carrying bed bugs in plastic bags until the items can be laundered, washed by hand, heated, or frozen,” they advise.

The Bedbug Registry is a free, public database of bedbug sightings in the United States and Canada, listing about 20,000 bedbug reports dating back to 2006. The site helps users check whether other people have encountered bedbugs at a hotel or in an apartment building, although the listings have not been independently verfied for accuracy.

The registry allows anonymous listings and sends out email alerts whenever someone reports bedbugs within a mile of a registered user who has requested the service.

The Bedbug Registry is run by Maciej Ceglowski, a computer programmer who got bitten in 2006. He says, “The site is my way of getting revenge against the bedbugs.”

A few basic rules, courtesy of the New York City Health Department.

  • Never bring bed frames, mattresses, box springs or upholstered furniture found on the street into your home.
  • Check all used or rented furniture for bed bugs.
  • When traveling, inspect the bed and furniture. Keep suitcases off the floor and bed, and inspect them before you leave.
  • If you suspect you have been around bed bugs, immediately wash and dry your clothing on hot settings or store it in a sealed plastic bag until you can.
  • Seal cracks and crevices with caulk, even if you don’t have bed bugs to help prevent bed bugs and other pests from entering.

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