How Do Bed Bugs Transfer

Do Bed Bugs Travel on People?

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Believe it or not, bed bugs can travel via human hosts. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images )

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They’re creepy, they’re crawly and they’re often quite difficult to spot. Bed bugs – blood-sucking, tiny parasites that dine on human and animal hosts – have become a concern worldwide due to their stealthy ways of getting around. Unfortunately, the little critters are more mobile than we would like to think.

Bed Bug Bites and Basics

Bed bugs – named for one of their favorite hangouts – tend to be found in linens, between cracks in mattresses and even in cracks and crevices in the floor. They leech off their human or animal hosts, with bed bug bites leaving scabby trails of rashes and marks across the skin. Because they are mostly active at night, it can take awhile for a person to notice that his home or hotel room has bed bugs.

How Bed Bugs Spread

Not everyone is aware that bed bugs can be spread via humans: if a person goes to a hotel room that has bed bugs, and the bed bugs hide out on the person or on the person’s luggage, the bed bugs can be spread to a new location. Because of this, no house is safe from a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs can spread from house to house, living in even the cleanest conditions; bed bugs are not a sign that a person’s home is dirty or unkempt.

Looking for Bed Bug Evidence

If you suspect that your home has been hit by bed bugs, look for the following telltale signs: small scabs or rashes in a line-like pattern on your skin, small fecal droppings or small blood smears on your sheets. The bed-bug bites will most likely be across your face, arms, or legs – the areas that are not covered by your pajamas as you sleep. Remember, though, that not all people will develop a rash if being bitten. You’ll also want to check for bugs in your mattress and in your luggage by closely inspecting them.

Eradicating Bed Bugs for Good

Though a variety of sprays and ointments are out there marketed as beg-bug killers, the truth is that many of these products do not work. You can attempt to rid yourself of these pests by vacuuming every inch of your apartment and by putting your linens in a dryer set on the highest setting. While it’s rare to find bed bugs on the clothes you’re wearing – they tend to fall off once you start moving – you should still wash any potentially contaminated clothing as well. A severe infestation will require the attention of a licensed exterminator; it can often take more than one visit from the exterminator to ensure that the bed bugs are really gone.

Disclosure

Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

How do Bed Bugs Spread and How to Prevent it

People often wonder where bed bugs live, how they spread and the ways to prevent this. So, in this guide, we will mainly study how bed bugs spread from place to place and the important steps one can take to prevent this from happening.

Where are they commonly found?

Bed bugs are found throughout the world. The most common type of bed bug, the Cimex Lectularius, lives in cooler regions, and one can find it in many parts of North America, Europe as well as some parts of Asia. Similarly, the tropical bed bug (the Cimex Hemipterus) is found in tropical or warmer regions like Africa, Asia, South America and certain parts of North America.

How do bed bugs spread?

The answer to this question is very simple: bed bugs simply hitchhike their way into our homes through our luggage, on buses, trains and even airplanes. In most of the infestations, homeowners have either traveled to or stayed in infested motels or rental properties. Bed bugs also spread through discarded infested furniture, mattresses, shoes, books and other items that are innocently picked up by people.

The worst part is that bed bugs are difficult to spot. They hide in cracks and crevices in furniture, wall sockets and electrical outlets etc. The larvae and eggs of bed bugs measure less than 1/25” making it difficult to get rid of them easily.

How to prevent bed bugs from spreading?

People dealing with a bed bug infestation must feel a moral obligation in preventing bed bugs from spreading. It is often embarrassing to admit to an infestation in the first place, since most people feel that it is a sign of unhygienic conditions. While this is true to some extent; it is important to note that no matter how clean and spotless a home or a hotel is, bed bugs can still reside in it. And once they come into our homes, it is difficult to get rid of them.

However, there are ways of preventing the spreading of bed bugs.

  • When travelling, carry few trash/ plastic bags to store items in. Seal your shoes, clothing and other necessities in these bags to protect them from bed bugs.
  • Never place your luggage near furniture, walls and beds in motels and hotels as these are the areas that are frequented by the bugs. The best place to store your luggage and shoes in motels is the bathroom or your car, as bed bugs normally prefer inhabiting areas closer to the sleeping hosts.
  • If you see signs of bed bug activity on your hotel beds (such as rust colored fecal stains, discarded exoskeletons and other bed bug debris) do notify the hotel management staff. They might already be aware of the problem and even using an integrated pest management system. Most hotels will also offer to give you another room or it is best to change the hotel if possible.
  • If you have bed bugs in your home, inform potential guests beforehand so as to prevent bed bugs from spreading to their homes.

What to do if you see bed bug signs where you are staying?

  • The best thing to do is notify the owner or manager. Do not spray any pesticide as other people/guests (or house pets) could be allergic to these. Moreover, spraying ineffective pesticides can also be detrimental to the efforts of bed bug control programs that are already in place.
  • Seal all your items in trash bags or plastic bags and if possible, place your luggage in these bags. Store the luggage away from the infested room, preferably in the car or in the bathroom.
  • Inspect yourself and your clothes that you are wearing currently to see if bed bugs have crawled on them. Do not apply any insecticide on your person; rather brush or dust the clothing.
  • Once you are home, brush your clothes again. Open and unpack your luggage outdoors to contain the infestation.
  • Launder all clothing in hot water and on the highest heat setting to kill bed bugs, eggs and larvae. Keep all clothing sealed until it is ready to be washed. Do not leave infested items near beds, on the floor or near clean clothes.
  • Place the luggage (backpacks and duffel bags) in dryers for 30 minutes.
  • Never leave infested items that you wish to discard near trash cans as unsuspecting people might pick them up leading to the spread of bed bugs.

Call professional bed bug exterminators rather than dealing with large infestation on your own. This is the most important step for preventing the spread of bed bugs.

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

How Do Bed Bugs Travel?

Bags & Personal Belongings

Bed bugs are transported by people, most often in personal belongings such as the following:

  • Luggage & Suitcases
  • Purses
  • Gym bags
  • Items kept close to sleep areas

They can hide in your personal belongings, or even on you, and hitchhike a ride back to your home, condo, townhouse or apartment.

Many people ask if bed bugs can jump, but they can’t and dont travel that way.

Where do you pick them up?

It’s possible to pick up bed bugs almost any place – they’ve infested offices, stores, hotels, gyms and countless other places.

Prefer people over pets

The common bed bug prefers to feed on human hosts and does not prefer pets or other furry animals.

Bed bugs are easily transported into previously non-infested dwellings.

Once indoors, they can be extremely difficult to control without the help of an experienced pest specialist.

If you suspect you may have picked up some of these hitchhikers in your travels, call Orkin for a comprehensive bed bug inspection and assessment and implementation of a treatment solution.

What You Should Know About Bed Bugs

Read the information below so that you can better understand this nation-wide problem.

Overview: At one time bed bugs were almost eliminated from the United States. However, currently they are found in all 50 states including Iowa. Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bug bites usually will cause large itchy welts on the skin. These welts may not appear for 24 to 48 hours after the bite. Bed bugs are travelers. They often spread by hitchhiking on luggage, furniture, and possessions. They are not typically spread from direct person-to-person contact.

What is a bed bug?

Bed bugs are oval-shaped and wingless insects. They do not jump, but crawl. Like mosquitoes they bite humans to feed on blood but unlike mosquitoes they do not transmit diseases. The adults are about the size of a lentil (slightly larger than 1/8 of an inch). Immature bed bugs (nymphs) start out about the size of a poppy seed and grow gradually through several stages until they reach adult size. Both nymphs and adults expand slightly and become a deep red color after feeding. It has been shown that a bed bug can survive as long as eighteen months without feeding. If temperature changes occur slowly over a period of days and weeks, they can adapt and withstand both hot and cold environments.

Bed bug pictures (larger than actual size):

Where do bed bugs live?

Bed bugs live primarily on, and close to, the area where a person sleeps. Most bed bugs live within 8 feet of where people sleep. Although their name suggests beds, bed bugs can live in very small spaces and crevices on or within baseboards, behind headboards, on bed frames, in wall and ceiling cracks, in furniture and drawers, in curtains and drapes, on mattress seams, on pillows, on clothes piled on the floor, at the junction of carpet and the adjoining wall, on boxes, luggage, or backpacks, and even in electrical outlets, clock radios, fans, and other electronic/computer equipment. They are most active at night, especially in the pre-dawn hours.

How are bed bugs transmitted?

Bed bug infestations occur when bed bugs are picked up in infested rooms (like motel rooms) and carried back to residences (like your residence hall room) in the luggage and clothing of travelers. In an extremely advanced infestation they will travel within buildings through wall, floor, and ceiling openings, on pipes, and on cables. Bringing second-hand furniture into your residence hall room can also be a method of transmission.

How do I know if I have bed bugs?

  • bug bites, welts, itching
  • small blood spots found on bedding

Are bed bugs a health issue?

Since bed bugs feed on blood, many people have a concern about the spread of disease. There is no evidence that they transmit diseases to humans. The insect is a public health pest, but NOT a threat to public health.

What can I do?

  • Learn to identify bed bugs and know how to examine your bed, linens, and possessions.
  • If you suspect you have bed bug bites, schedule an appointment with the Health Center. If your suspicion is confirmed, the nurse will notify residence life staff immediately so they can start inspection and treatment right away. Learn more about how residence life will handle bed bug reports.
  • Inspect your bed and bedding periodically. It is possible to have bed bugs and not have an allergic reaction such as a bite or welt.
  • Inspect your backpack and laptop bag regularly. Check seams and pouches. Don’t put your backpack under your bed.
  • Clean and reduce clutter in your room, particularly clothing on the floor. This will reduce the number of places bed bugs might hide.
  • Don’t bring second-hand or found furniture into your room or apartment.
  • When traveling, inspect your sleeping area and keep your luggage on a valet rack, not on the bed or floor.
  • Before returning to campus, inspect your clothes and other items before packing them. Check crevices, zippers, and pouches in your luggage and backpack.
  • Upon your return to campus, recheck all your travel items. Don’t put your suitcase or backpack under your bed.

Myth: Bed bugs spread disease among people.

Fact: Bed bugs do not spread any diseases but they are a public health nuisance.

Myth: Someone on campus has bed bug bites–they must have gotten them in their residence hall room.

Fact: Bed bugs are primarily a problem for hotels, motels, and resorts that have a transient population.

Myth: It would only take a week for bed bugs to spread to an entire residence hall.

Fact: It normally takes months for a severe infestation to spread to other rooms within the same general area.

Myth: Cornell has cloth mattresses which facilitate spread of bed bugs since they can get inside the mattress.

Fact: Cornell has special thick bug resistant covers on all mattresses, making it impossible for bed bugs to go below the surface of the mattress cover.

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