Increased calls prompt Cypress Health Region release on preventing and controlling bed bugs

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The Cypress Health Region is recommending increased precautions regarding bed bugs after a jump in phone inquiries regarding the pesky, tough to control bugs.

"Bed bugs are always around, but of late we've had a lot of calls from people, so people are either noticing them more or there is an increase in them. It's anywhere and everywhere. There's no real pattern to them, except of course that they're always where people are," explained Medical Health Officer Dr. David Torr during a phone interview on Friday.

"We've had a lot of calls from people - from facilities, from families, from individuals. So there are a number of different places, but there's no one place that we are targeting," he said. "We've dealt with quite a number of calls, and that's why we sent out that media release is because we noticed that we were getting more calls than usual."

The Cypress Health Region issued a press release on the morning of July 30 concerning the prevention and avoidance of bed bugs, with their general release simply noting that bed bugs can be a very active pest during, particularly during the summer months due to the heightened travelling activity.

"Bed bugs are always there, you do get the periodic calls. But we did notice that there was a bit of an increase in the number of calls and that's why we sent out the media release and said 'hey, these things are everywhere and take appropriate precautions.'"

"We've had a lot of calls from Swift Current, but we've also had calls from other parts of the region as well."

With summer travel the opportunity to spread bed bugs does increase.

"The bugs don't fly. They are person-to-person. So they will come in your clothing and in your luggage. So if you have visitors, or you are visiting, be careful where you are camping, or hotels, or even just travel," Dr. Torr said.

He specifically advised individuals to check their luggage, as it is easy for bed bugs to transfer from one bag to another in airplane luggage storage areas.

"When you get back home, clean that or vacuum out your bag, wash the clothes immediately with hot water, and dry them with a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. Precautions like that."

He highlighted that while there are lots of precaution and controlling tips on the Cypress Health Region website (www.cypresshealth.ca/phi) there are other resources people can access.

"Pest control is there to give more professional advise if there is evidence of a heavy infestation."

Earlier today, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Cam Broten issued a press release with concerns over a bed bug infestation at Heritage Towers. He quotes a resident from Heritage Towers has complained there has only been minimal effort in dealing with the problem, and that only seniors who complained have had their rooms treated, while nothing has been done in common areas and hallways.

“To hear that this government is half-heartedly or even selectively dealing with this problem is a serious concern. This is yet another example of the kind of neglect that is becoming rampant in seniors care,” Broten stated in his press release.

Dr. Torr could not speak specifically as to what stage they are at in regards to addressing the issue at the Saskatchewan Housing Authority seniors home, but they had made a series of recommendations when first consulted on the problem.

"We were in there probably a couple of weeks back and did give them guidance and direction, and we continue to provide that. So I am sure something is going on there.

Dr. Torr noted there would be a procedure to follow when dealing with a bed bug infestation at a larger institution.

"The recommendations of course, especially for a big facility, is to bring in pest control and have a systematic review. First you have to assess that they are there. You've had information to the effect that they may be there, so verify that. Verify which areas they're in. Lay out an action plan, as guided by the experts on that on how to clear out the infestation, where it is primarily, and then protecting the rest of the areas to ensure that work is done," he said. "I would assume the first thing would be to take action on areas where bed bugs are actually seen or there is evidence of them."

He also pointed out that bed bugs do not cause direct disease.

"Health wise they don't cause any direct disease, but they do cause a lot of anxiety and a lot of discomforts."

The following is the full press release from the Cypress Health Region.

Preventing and Controlling Bed Bugs

Safeguard Your Family and Home from Bed Bug Pest

It is possible for anyone, anywhere to experience a bed bug infestation; however, bed bugs can be prevented and controlled with appropriate precautions. In recent years Saskatchewan and other Canadian provinces and territories have seen an increase in the number of bed bug reports, heightening the need to take appropriate precautions to avoid these pests. Summertime is an active time for travel and further increases ones risk to bed bug exposure.

Bed bugs are reddish-brown insects with oval-shaped wingless bodies. If they’ve had a recent blood meal they can be similar in size and shape to an apple seed. Bed bugs usually bite at night and often target the face, neck, upper torso, arms, and hands. Most bed bug bites are initially painless but could turn into large, itchy skin welts. There are currently no known cases of infectious diseases transmitted to people by bed bug bites. Bites will eventually go away by themselves and don’t require treatment.

If you suspect bed bugs there are several ways to confirm their presence. Use a bright flashlight to look for bed bugs or their dark droppings in bedroom furniture, windows, baseboards, and doorframes. Or, use a hot hair dryer, a thin knife, or a playing card to force them out of hiding spaces and cracks. Check the following areas of your house or apartment: behind your headboard and cracks and crevices in your bed, seams/tufts of mattresses, inside the box spring and along the bed frame, along bedroom baseboards, in and around nightstands, and other bedroom items such as window casings, pictures, mouldings, and furniture.

If you are aware of bed bugs in your home there are several important steps to follow for successful eradication:

- Consult with your landlord, building manager, local Public Health Unit, or a pest control professional to confirm that you have bed bugs.

- Use a nozzle attachment on the vacuum to remove live adult bed bugs and immature bed bugs (called nymphs) and their eggs.  

- Vacuum all crevices on your mattress, bed frame, baseboards, and any objects close to the bed.  

- It is essential to vacuum daily and empty the vacuum bag immediately or seal it and place it in the freezer for several days.  

- Wash all your clothing, bed sheets, blankets, mattress pads, pillows, and their cases in the hottest water possible and place them in a hot dryer for 30 minutes.  

- Consider covering your pillows and mattress with a plastic cover.  

- Remove all unnecessary clutter.

- Seal cracks and crevices between baseboards, on wood bed frames, floors, and walls with caulking.

- Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, tighten loose light switch covers, and seal any openings where pipes, wires, or other utilities come into your home (pay special attention to walls that are shared between apartments).

- Properly dispose of infested items that cannot be cleaned.

- Seal all items tightly in a plastic garbage bag and discard in a clearly labeled outside container.

- Bed bug control requires an integrated pest management (IPM) approach that includes proper preparation and inspection, identification, and housekeeping. This will ensure the risk of pesticide exposure is minimized, the environment is protected, and the effectiveness of the treatment is maximized.

Even if you have never encountered bed bugs the following prevention measures will help minimize your risk to welcoming them into your home: be careful when buying used furniture or clothes and make sure to inspect them thoroughly prior to purchasing, never bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, upholstered furniture, or electronics into your home (these may be infested with bed bugs), when travelling be sure to inspect the room and its furniture for blood spots, droppings, or live insects and request a different room if you suspect any evidence of bed bugs. Upon returning home from travel inspect your luggage before bringing it into your home and wash clothing on the hottest setting possible followed by 30 minutes in a hot dryer.

Bed bugs can happen to anyone, anywhere. Bed bug exposure is not necessarily associated with living conditions. Please exercise caution, particularly when traveling and returning home. For more information please call Public Health at 306-778-5280 or visit www.cypresshealth.ca/phi and click on ‘Pest Control & Animal Bites’.

Organizations: Cypress Health Region

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Swift Current

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