Health officials report increase in bed bug infestations

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 22, 2015) - State Health officials are seeing a steady increase in the number of bed bug infestations across Indiana, and some pest control experts believe low gas prices could be making the problem worse.

Joshua Bland, of Insight Pest Solutions, says his office receives calls about bed bugs several times a week.

“Over the past few years, our business has doubled in size,” Bland said. “And bed bug calls has probably tripled in that same time period.”

Bland is one pest control professional who believes a recent increase in travel, could be helping to spread bed bugs from hotels to homes and apartment buildings.

“I believe part of it is due to gas going down so people can get out and travel a little more, since it’s cheaper,” Bland said.

Doctor Jennifer Brown is the director of Zoonotic Vector-Borne Epidemiology for the Indiana State Health Department. She and other public health officials say low gas prices can’t be identified as the sole reason for the increased spread of bed bugs, but the lower fuel prices could be one of several factors.

“I would certainly agree that anything that promotes travel is something that could contribute to the spread of bedbugs,” Doctor Brown said.

Since state law does not require bed bug cases to be reported to public health departments, Doctor Brown does not have exact numbers on the increasing infestations. But she and others agree the problem is growing.

“It’s a common misconception that bedbug infestations are related to cleanliness,” Doctor Brown said. “That’s actually not true. Even homes or business that are clean can have bed bug infestations.”

This public forum website lists five Indianapolis hotels or apartments where people claim to have encountered bed bugs in their rooms so far in 2015. Multiple reports on the website go back several years.

Bland says bed bugs are very good at attaching themselves to clothing and spreading between apartment units, and traveling to and from hotels as guests come and go. He recommends inspecting mattresses and bed frames for blood stains, dead skins and fecal matter before bringing your luggage into a hotel room.

“Go in there with a flashlight,” Bland said. “Check the mattress, check the bed frame. Down along the wall, look for any signs of possible bed bug infestations.”

Ever since DDT was outlawed, bed bugs have become more difficult to defend against with modern pesticides. And while bed bugs are not generally viewed as a public health threat, they are very difficult and expensive to get rid of. A bad infestation can cost thousands of dollars to clear up.

The Indiana State Department of Health and Insight Pest Solutions have extensive information on preventing and dealing with bed bugs.

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