Tag Archives: South Bend Apartment Residents Overtaken By Bedbugs

South Bend Apartment Residents Overtaken By Bedbugs

31 Oct

10/31/2011 South Bend Indiana Apartment Residents Overtaken By Bedbugs

Trash bins overflowed with mattresses and furniture last month at a South Bend apartment complex. But anyone tempted to repurpose the loot would have been in for a nasty surprise.

The bedding and furnishings were infested with bedbugs.

The bugs had moved into several of the complex’s buildings and were “spreading like wildfire” from apartment to apartment, according to one resident, who didn’t want to be named for fear of eviction.

“I noticed the bites first and I was thinking, ‘I’m breaking out or I have the measles,’ ” she said. “But then I saw a little bug.”

She called the complex office and they sent Terminix to look at her place. They confirmed that she had the bugs.

So did her daughter and grandchildren, who live in a nearby apartment.

“They are bit up bad,” she said. “My daughter and her friend threw away everything.”

The family is sleeping on the floor until the problem is resolved.

Meanwhile, the woman is concerned that the bugs might spread through the complex’s schoolchildren.

“My grandson goes to school and other kids out here go to school,” she said. “They say (the bugs) can travel on people’s clothing or purses.”

She’s right. Bedbugs don’t stay put.

“They are the best hitchhikers there are,” said Tim Harvey, manager of Terminix’s South Bend branch.

“They ride from place to place on clothing, luggage. They can even get on your pants and travel from room to room or be transported anywhere.

“It has nothing to do with sanitation or cleanliness. They are just good hitchhikers,” he said.

They tend to infest places with a lot of traffic: college dorms, hotels and motels, nursing homes, office buildings, schools and day cares, hospitals, public transportation and movie theaters.

Last year, Hawthorne Elementary School in Elkhart dealt with an infestation. In August, the Niles Housing Commission’s Hi Rise apartments had to call in a company with a bedbug-sniffing dog to deal with an infestation. There have been several reports of bedbugs at hotels in Michiana. And, of course, there are homes.

“I’ve actually gotten double the calls this year than we did previous years,” said Harvey. “We probably do an average of two to three jobs per week.”

Science and health

Bedbugs are small, flat, oval insects that feed solely on blood, preferably that of humans. They are usually active at night and prefer to hide close to where people sleep – especially in the crevices of the mattress, box spring, bed frame and headboard. They cannot fly, but will crawl as far as 20 feet to obtain a blood meal, said Marc Lame, an entomologist at Indiana University Bloomington.

Bedbugs feed by piercing exposed skin like a mosquito. They are not able to burrow into skin or through material. It takes them about five to 10 minutes to feed, but people seldom know they are being bitten.

“Basically their whole survival depends on getting on, getting a blood meal and getting off without being squished,” Lame said. “They inject an anticoagulant to make the blood flow faster and an anesthetic so they can remain undetected.”

Some people develop an itchy red welt similar to a mosquito bite within a day to two weeks of being bitten, while others have little or no reaction.

Female bedbugs might lay 200 to 500 eggs during their lifetime. When they first hatch, the bugs are about the size of a pinhead. As they grow, they molt or shed their skin five times. Before each stage of the life cycle, the bugs must have a blood meal. However, they can go for months, as many as 10 to 12, without eating, Lame said. If conditions are right, they can mature within a month – which means they can produce several generations in one year.

While a lot of research is still being done on the subject, studies so far have shown that bedbugs do not transmit disease.

However, the government is beginning to recognize the bugs as a serious health concern. Just last year, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a joint statement on the matter. This is because the bugs have a psychological effect on people, Lame said.

“If you think you’re sleeping with bedbugs, you are not going to sleep very well,” he said. “Which causes you to function very poorly – from crazy to just darn tired.”

That, in turn, can impair reflexes and contribute to other health problems.

“After they get rid of (the bugs), it can take three weeks or three months for (a person) to psychologically get over the infestation,” Lame said. “I’ve even had some sleepless nights after bedbug calls that were heavily infested – where they were really numerous and gross.”

Some people become obsessed and would do anything to rid their homes or themselves of the bugs, including “dousing themselves with pesticides or bedbug bombs,” Lame said, or scraping their skin with sharp objects.

A North Carolina woman died after she and her husband used several chemicals in their home in an attempt to rid it of bedbugs.

“We could all have bedbugs and survive,” Lame said, but when it reaches an epidemic and causes anxiety in people, public health officials play an important role.

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