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Bed bugs

Bedbugs, or Cimex lectularius, have been with us since the beginning of time, and they can be found in movie theaters, apartments, residence halls, high-end hotels, buses and ships.

In the 1950s, it was discovered that high concentrations of the chemical dichlorodiphenyl-tricholoethane (commonly referred to as DDT) could be used to treat them. The bug was virtually eradicated because of DDT.

But in the past five years, there has been a resurgence of bed bugs because of increased international travel and "changes in modern pest control practice — and less effective bedbug pesticides." (Potter 2004)

How are they introduced to an apartment?

Bedbugs are typically introduced to an apartment from furniture or luggage. Students are transient, meaning they're more at risk of bringing bedbugs into their living spaces. You can transfer them by sleeping in a bed or staying in a hotel room populated by them. Any time you stay someplace unfamiliar, check the mattresses, headboards and sheets for potential activity. You also can bring bedbugs into your living space by picking up furniture from sidewalks or alleys. Bringing furniture into your apartment from the sidewalk is extremely risky and ill advised.

Do they spread disease?

Although bed bugs can harbor pathogens in their bodies, it's highly unlikely that they transmit them to humans. For this reason, they are not considered a serious disease threat. Their medical significance is mainly limited to itching and inflammation, and those affected usually are prescribed topical antiseptic or antibiotic creams or lotions. (Potter 2004)

For students:

I think I have bedbugs. What should I do?

• Don't panic.

• Contact your landlord immediately. Most landlords contract with a pest control service provider who can help eradicate the problem. Work closely with your landlord and the pest controller. It must be a team effort.

• Reduce clutter to limit hiding places for bedbugs.

• Thoroughly clean the infested room, as well as any other rooms in the apartment.

• Wash all sheets and clothing in hot water. Dry clean items that can't be washed.

• Mattresses and box springs can be permanently encased in special mattress bags. Any bugs trapped in the sealed bags will eventually die.

Please note: In some instances, you will need to throw away furniture to eradicate bedbugs. Consult with your pest controller/landlord to decide the best course of action.

Should I move?

No. There is a high likelihood that the bugs will travel with you. Pest control experts agree that the best way to eradicate the problem is to follow the aforementioned instructions while implementing a chemically based pest treatment plan.

I'm a clean person. How did this happen?

Bedbugs are not picky in their host selections. Anybody can get them regardless of his/her personal hygiene habits.

For landlords:

• A fast and aggressive treatment plan is advised. Most pest control agencies will do a 360-degree treatment of the space to prevent further contamination.

• Work closely with residents to resolve the problem. It must be a team effort. Failure on the part of the resident to cooperate with treatment procedures could lead to an unnecessary prolonging of the process, costing time and money.

• Follow all treatment plans advised by the pest control agency.

** All information is taken from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology. For more information, visit ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef636.asp.

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