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Bed Bugs Bite: National Bed Bug Conference to Combat Creepy Crawlers

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Bugs LifeBed bugs have mounted such a dramatic resurgence in recent years that the government has organized a national conference to discuss ways to combat the nasty little critters.

This week apartment owners, hotel managers, exterminators, housing agencies, and policymakers have all come together at the first-ever National Bed Bug Summit in Washington D.C., where they are discussing what can be done to eradicate the pests and prevent future infestations.

Representative G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina even plans to reintroduce legislation into Congress next week, dubbed the Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite Act. Low-income public housing has been hit especially hard by the bed bug scourge, and the bill would expand grant programs to help authorities cope with infestations.

Bed bugs aren’t limited to just grungy surroundings or fleabag motels. Even soccer moms living in suburban McMansions and guests staying in some of the country’s nicest hotels have woken up to find themselves covered in the telltale red, itchy welts that often result when bed bugs come out at night to feed on human blood.

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Although bed bugs are most commonly found in the crevices of mattresses and cracks in bedroom furniture, they have also been found in hospital rooms, cell phones, recliner chairs, television sets and electrical outlets. They can live and breed pretty much anywhere that there are dark hidden cracks and corners.

Bed BugsExperts say the number of bed bugs has been on the rise since World War II when many of the pesticides that were previously used to combat were banned. The increase in international travel has also been blamed, as the insects hitchhike into the U.S. in the luggage of those coming from overseas.

The good news about bed bugs is that though their bites are irritating to around 30 percent of the population, there is almost no evidence that they spread disease.

But the bad news is that bed bugs are very difficult to destroy. They are very hardy and can live up to one year without a meal. They also don’t respond to baited traps since they only eat blood. Pesticides will kill them, but it is often dangerous to spray poison into bedding that comes into contact with people. As a result, exterminators often use high-suction vacuum treatments or boiling steam instead.

Travelers should be vigilant wherever they are staying, whether it be a grungy hostel, a vacation condo, or a five-star hotel. Bed bugs don’t discriminate, and have been found in all sorts of dwellings, no matter how clean or dirty they seem to be.

Before you go to sleep at night, look for telltale signs of the bugs, which include small black droppings and blood stains on your box spring and mattress. Inspect the folds of your mattress and the crevices in your headboard for any actual bugs, which are reddish-brown and look somewhat like ticks. If you see any, alert the management and ask to be changed to a different room.

Resist the temptation to put your suitcase on the bed or floor, which can give the critters an opportunity to catch ride home in your luggage. When you get home, wash your clothes and vacuum your suitcases.

If you’re really proactive or have had a problem with bed bugs in the past, check www.bedbugregistry.com before you depart to see if there is an infestation alert for your hotel. And consider bringing a hypo-allergenic mattress cover with you, which can be used to encase both the mattress and box spring and can provide some protection from bugs.

By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com.

Related links: New York Times, Lubbock Online, Associated Press, Houston Chronicle,

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