Bed bugs are small wingless insects and are approximately one-fourth of an inch long.
Bed bugs have lived along side humans since the ice ages. Sometime in the early 1990s bed bugs started to reappear in the U.S. after almost disappearing after World War II. The most familiar species is Cimex lectularius, also known as the common bed bug. The feeding habits of a bed bug are normally at night, and they exclusively feed on blood. They prefer humans but will feed on other warm blooded animals including dogs, cats, birds and rodents.
Bed bugs usually bite exposed skin of people at night while they are sleeping. How a person reacts to being bitten by bed bugs varies from person to person. Many people develop an itchy red welt or localize swelling within a day or two. Some people have little or no reaction and still other people can have delayed reaction.
The main medical concern with bed bugs is the inflammatory response (redness and swelling) to their bites. Common allergic reactions can include the development of large welts, greater than 1cm or larger. In some cases, blister-like eruptions have been reported and anaphylaxis may occur in patients with severe allergies. Also, scratching the bites can lead to a secondary infection.
The other significant concern with bed bugs is the psychological impact of an infestation. Some people have reported significant reductions in their quality of life as a result of the discomfort, anxiety, sleeplessness, embarrassment, and isolation that may occur as a result of a bed bug infestation. In many cases, the psychological impact is far greater than the physical impact of a bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs can be a problem in all kinds of places, including homes, apartments, hotels, cruise ships, dormitories and shelters. They have also been found to infest vehicles, movie theaters, furniture rental outlets and office buildings. While bed bugs are linked to dirty conditions, even the cleanest place can find itself faced with an infestation because bed bugs can hitch onto almost anything. It is almost impossible to determine where they came from because they can go undetected for months.
Where do bed bugs hide?
What does the City do for bed bugs?
The Urban Biology Division of the Environmental Health Department is charged with the enforcement of the Insect and Rodent Control Ordinance. Citizens residing in multi-unit dwellings (apartment buildings, hotels, duplex rental units) should first notify property management if a bed bug infestation is suspected. Most property managers are eager to exterminate an infestation quickly to prevent spread. In the event that no action is taken by property management, please call 311 to file a complaint. Please provide as much information as possible to facilitate rapid resolution of the problem. The city will work with property management to ensure that the infestation is eradicated.
Tips for the Traveler
For many people, their greatest risk of exposure to bed bugs will occur while traveling away from home. Therefore travelers need to know what to do and look for to avoid bringing these unwanted pests home.