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Bedbugs creeping into all neighborhoods

Tribune-Democrat - 11/19/2017

Nov. 19--When Kevin Fitzpatrick checks into a hotel room, he looks behind picture frames, inside the television and inspects furniture and trim.

No, Fitzpatrick is not an international spy checking for listening devices. He's looking for some old-fashioned bugs -- bedbugs, to be exact.

Fitzpatrick is owner of Able Pest Control on Eisenhower Boulevard in Richland Township. He's seen a dramatic increase in bedbugs over the past three years.

Bedbug infestations are not limited to any income bracket or neighborhood, Fitzpatrick said.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "They can be in homes, apartments, hotels and schools."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that bedbugs had been all but eradicated in Western countries in the 1940s with aggressive use of pesticides, especially DDT. When DDT was taken off the market due to environmental and health risks, it helped allow a resurgence, beginning in the mid-1990s, the CDC reports.

Don't let the bedbugs bite

The Environmental Protection Agency has some suggestions to protect against bedbugs:

--Check secondhand furniture for any signs of bed bug infestation before bringing them home.

--Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs to eliminate many hiding spots.

--Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs

--Vacuum frequently to remove any successful hitchhikers.

--Be vigilant when using shared laundry facilities. Transport items to be washed in plastic bags. Remove from dryer directly into bag and fold at home.

If you live in a multi-family home, try to isolate your unit by:

--Installing door sweeps on the bottom of doors.

--Sealing cracks and crevices around baseboards, light sockets and other openings to prevent movement.

An upswing in international travel and immigration fueled the resurgence in the United States.

"Bedbugs are the easiest traveling insect out there," Fitzpatrick said.

"They can travel in suitcases or electronics."

In addition to a close inspection of all hotel rooms while traveling, Fitzpatrick says people should think about anything they are bringing into their homes. If family members stayed in hotel on the way for a holiday visit, they should be urged to inspect their suitcases and electronics, he stressed.

"You can see bedbugs," Fitzpatrick said. "A lot of people think you can't see them."

Adult bedbugs can measure a little more than an eighth of an inch.

Even merchandise delivered to the home can be a mode of transportation, he added.

"They can travel in boxes being shipped," he said. "It's an easy way for them to travel."

Fitzpatrick recommends opening packages outside the house and checking both the merchandise and the box for tiny bugs.

Bedbugs don't necessarily live in the bed itself, Fitzpatrick continues. Picture frames, dresser drawers, televisions and cracks in molding can be the daytime hideout.

"They basically have hiding places everywhere," he said. "They seek you when you are sleeping. When you are down and the air is not moving, they begin to feed at that point."

Bites from bedbugs create welts, and usually come in groups. Fitzpatrick said the most tell-tale sign of bedbugs is a straight line of three or more bites.

The good news is, bedbug bites are not considered a serious health risk.

Although some people may develop an allergic reaction, most can avoid a developing an infection by not scratching the area, the CDC says.

"The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine," the CDC said on its website.

Regular inspection of the residence and items being brought inside the home represent the best way to prevent bedbugs, the CDC says.

The resurgence has been felt across the continent by those in all walks of life.

"Bedbugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts," the CDC says.

"Their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found."

As the resurgence of bedbugs became apparent locally, the Johns-town Housing Authority and CamTran are among those taking proactive measures.

"We have a professional that comes in," Beverly Sipes, deputy executive director, said from Johnstown Housing Authority. "We treat regularly because that keeps them at bay. It works very, very well for us."

CamTran's buses are regularly rotated out of service for maintenance, spokesman Josh Yoder said.

"The buses are detailed top to bottom," Yoder said. "We have a machine that heats the interior of the bus up to maybe 120 degrees."

Those who suspect an infestation should contact an expert, the CDC says, noting that the best insecticides against bedbugs are only available to professional exterminators.

"It is getting a little easier with the new materials that we are using," Fitzpatrick said. "We definitely need cooperation from the homeowner or the renter to make sure the place is as clean as possible."

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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(c)2017 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

Visit The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.) at www.tribune-democrat.com

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