Bedbugs are found all over the world. Bed bug infestations were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the insecticide DDT for pest control began in the 1940s and 1950s. They remained prevalent in other areas of the world and, in recent years, have been increasingly observed again in the U.S. Increases in immigration and travel from the developing world as well as restrictions on the use of stronger pesticides may be factors that have led to the relatively recent increase in bedbug infestations. While bedbug infestations are often reported to be found when sanitation conditions are poor or when birds or mammals (particularly bats) are nesting on or near a home, bedbugs can also live and thrive in clean environments. Crowded living quarters also facilitate the spread of bedbug infestations.
Cracks and crevices of bed frames should also be examined, especially if the frame is wood. (Bed bugs have an affinity for wood and fabric more so than metal or plastic.) Wooden support slats, if present, should be removed and examined since bed bugs often congregate where the ends rest on the frame. Screw holes, knots and other recesses are also common hiding places. Headboards secured to walls should be removed and inspected. In hotels, the area behind the headboard is often the first place that bed bugs become established. Bed bugs also frequently hide within items stored under beds.
The significant resurgence of bedbugs in the past decade has been attributed to pesticide resistance, more frequent travel, lack of public awareness, and inadequate pest control programs. Bedbugs are obligate blood parasites (insect family Cimicidae). They can withstand a large range of temperatures but are attracted to warmth and carbon dioxide. They typically feed just before dawn. Cutaneous reactions to bedbug bites can include macules, papules, wheals, vesicles, bullae, and nodules. Bites may be confused with other skin conditions. Bedbug bite reactions are typically self-limited and resolve within one to two weeks without treatment. Bedbug infestation may cause significant psychological distress. The diagnosis of a bedbug infestation is based on history, appearance of bites, and inspection of sleeping quarters. Although there is no evidence that bedbugs transmit disease, systemic reactions may include asthma, angioedema, generalized urticaria, iron deficiency anemia, and, rarely, anaphylaxis. An integrated pest management strategy should be employed to eliminate infestation. Tactics include vacuuming, heat or cold treatment, trapping devices, and pesticides.
Bites on dogs and cats will look much like bites on people, and the pet owner may actually suspect a mosquito or flea bit the pet. As with people, bed bugs do not stay on pets, but return to a protected harborage site after feeding. In addition to bites, the presence of the bug’s feces, cast skins and the animal’s irritation at night are also indicators of bed bugs biting pets. Therefore, one of the best things to do is inspect the pet’s bedding and frequently groom the animal while being vigilant for the telltale signs of bed bug presence.