Monday, June 17, 2013
Michael Patton has been in the pest control business for more than 30 years. In other words, he knows his stuff when it comes to bed bugs.
Patton says the pests have made a resurgence in the Wichita area in the past couple years. His company used to get bed bug calls once a month but that's all changed.
"Now we're getting a couple calls a day so it's dramatically increasing," Patton said.
Bed bugs had largely disappeared in America for about 50 years in the mid to late 1900's. While it's unclear exactly what has caused them to make a resurgence, experts attribute it in part to increase global travel and the banning of certain chemical treatments in America.
The bugs hide during the day and come out at night. They feed on blood. They're often picked up in hotels and motels and brought home on luggage or clothing.
"Then you bring them into your house or take them with you to the next place you are going. They tend to travel very well because they can go for long periods of time without eating or feeding," said Seth Konkel, Health Protection Coordinator for the Sedgwick County Health Department.
So, anyone can carry them to any kind of home. Although, they tend to be found more often in lower income and multiple-family housing complexes because of how expensive they are to remove, experts say.
"They are not really discriminatory on where they live, they just need people to feed on and then places to hide," Konkel said. "Most any home is going to have places for them to hide."
Contrary to popular belief, the cleanliness of a home has little to do with why they appear.
"But, having clutter makes treatment more difficult because they have more hiding places," Patton said.
The one piece of good news, leaders say they aren't a public health threat.
"They aren't known to carry or spread any kind of disease," Konkel said.
But they're certainly an annoyance for people who have an infestation in their home. Bed bugs bite causing red and itchy welts, much like mosquito would do. If you are bitten, Konkel says you should take an antihistamine or use a hyrdocortisone cream. If the problem worsens, he suggests you see a medical professional.
The other problem: bed bugs are not easy to get rid of.
In most cases, a professional is needed to come in and use specialized chemicals. Most of these chemical treatments require multiple visits and can cost between $600 and $1000.
Other companies use a heat treatment where the home is heated above 130 degrees and held at that temperature for hours. That is also very costly and can run a homeowner between $1000 and $2000.
Patton says if you suspect you have an infestation in your home, you should have an inspection done. But he has a warning.
"Always make sure you find a bug before you treat because it's a lot of work and a lot of money," Patton said.
In terms of prevention, Patton says if you are going to travel, make sure to thoroughly check your hotel or motel room. He says to pull back the sheets and look for begs or for little red blood spots. He says you may even want to take off the headboard and look behind the bed.
He also suggests you avoid buying used furniture or furniture off the street because you don't know if those items have come from an infested home.