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Small bed bugs a big problem: health unit

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

These bed bugs are very small when shown next to a dime. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILE PHOTO

These bed bugs are very small when shown next to a dime. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILE PHOTO

Sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.

But unfortunately, sometimes they do and they can turn up in unlikely places like motel rooms, high-end hotels and even your own house.

A city woman contacted the Examiner and recounted her miserable experience with the apple seed-sized critters after recently staying at a city motel. She not only checked out of the facility with her luggage, but left with dozens of bed bug bites.

While the creatures are creepy and dastardly to get rid of, they don’t pose a health threat to humans, according to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s environmental health department manager Marina Whelan.

Reports of bed bug problems come from across the region, she said.

“We get a number of complaints but more often they are tenant/landlord situations. That’s where we get more of our calls for sure,” Whelan said. “They are certainly here and many communities are facing issues with them. Once they get established in an area, they’re really challenging to get rid of.”

While the bed bugs are not life threatening, some people do react to them in terms of the bite itself, she said.

“They’re not a health hazard. They don’t transfer disease,” Whelan said. “Some people will just have an itch as a bite would do, but some people can get an allergic reaction or even a secondary infection if they’re really scratching at their bites.

“But bed bugs are a lot like head lice in that there can be a stigma attached to them. People don’t necessarily want to talk about it. It’s disturbing and upsetting to people,” she said. “If they’re in a heavily infested place, they can get a lot of bites over the course of the night.”

Bed bugs live for about a year and the length of time they can live without a blood meal varies. However estimates are they can survive from a few months up to a year without feeding.

“They are seeking a blood meal and they relocate fairly easily. They can move through luggage and furniture,” she said. “If they’re in a building, they can move through the building. They can crawl between units through cracks and crevices, and little gaps in baseboards because they are very tiny.”

If you’re staying in a hotel and suspect bed bugs might be present, look in the bedside table and look for signs of them in the drawers and along the wall, areas that are less likely to be disturbed by cleaning staff.

But they don’t call them ‘bed’ bugs for nothing.

“Also, check the bedding itself, things like the mattress tag where they often hide. Sometimes they’re hanging down the side of the mattress and not necessarily just on top of the mattress. They’ll also often hide in the seams.

“You can pull back the sheets and have a look around for blood stains, particularly around the seams, or you might actually see the bed bugs themselves or little tiny droppings.”

Bed bugs often travel with their traveling human hosts, Whelan said.

“If somebody is staying in a place that has bed bugs, they can get into a knapsack or luggage and then that person leaves and goes home and they can take bed bugs with them,” she said, adding that’s when people have to take matters into their own hands.

“There’s a whole series of steps you need to go through to get rid of them, including the use of a licenced pest control person to apply pesticide,” Whelan said. “People should be bagging up all their belongings. They may need to do a lot laundry and washing. Cleaning up their belongings, inspecting their mattresses and vacuuming their luggage and any bed bugs they see, as well as in crevasses around baseboards.

“Any linens should be washed in the hottest water possible and dried in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. There’s a really comprehensive cleaning that needs to happen.”

To learn more, visit and search bed bugs.

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