ASSE Notes Holiday Travel May Help Spread Bedbugs
November 17, 2010

Experts say that in the past two to three years, bedbug infestations have increased around the world. In an effort to educate its 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental members about the threat of bedbugs, especially during the holiday travel season, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is distributing information aimed at reducing the threat of bedbugs at work and at home.

According to the University of Florida Entomology Department, today word of bedbug infestation occurs almost weekly in the U.S. and worldwide. They also note that evidence of bedbugs have been around since the middle ages. In the past, pesticides were used to eliminate the problem, but as pest control practices have changed, the bedbug problem has grown. Experts note too that most bedbugs are home grown and are being spread from belongings taken from one place to another.

Bedbugs are small insects that feed on blood and were common in residential homes and apartments in the U.S. before World War II. Experts note that bedbugs can be killed by heat over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If bedbugs are discovered in clothes or linens, one should wash them in hot water and place them in the dryer on high heat. Officials note that bedbugs are hard to prevent since they often hitch rides in clothing and luggage and can hide anywhere.

From a business perspective, bedbug outbreaks in apartments and other multi-family living environments can create a financial and liability impact for owners and managers of apartment properties. Officials note that hiring a pest control specialist skilled in integrated pest management (IPM) is critical.

For large areas and businesses, costs can run between $20,000 and $50,000 for severe outbreaks. Infestations can also pose a significant risk from the legal perspective and can result in health department complaints, claims and litigation. Experienced pest control companies who are familiar with bedbugs can charge anywhere from $100 to $750 for initial service of a single unit such as an apartment and $75 to $300 for follow-ups. Once one unit is infested with bedbugs, the infestations tend to move to other units. It is suggested that all adjacent units be inspected and treated as well.

To help to inspect for bedbugs it is suggested that one:
use a bright LED flashlight to enhance vision during an inspection;
examine any abandoned furniture closely for signs and presence of any bedbugs;
look for blood stains from crushed bugs, fecal spots, eggshells and skin near a hiding place;
look for rusty spots of excrement on walls;
examine all wall-paper or molding;
examine headboards in hotels and nursing homes as they are preferred sites as bedbugs are not disturbed and are close to a blood ‘meal’;
examine cracks or crevices around the unit including the edges of carpet; and
note an offensive, sweet, musty odor from the bed bug scent glands may be detected when infestations are severe.

If a business is infested, from the worker’s compensation perspective, workers who were bitten by bedbugs could have a compensable injury if they were bitten while working within the course and scope of their employment. Such a claim would most likely be handled like other injuries involving animals or insects, such as work-related dog bites or bee stings.

Visit ASSE’s Risk Management/Insurance Practice Specialty web page for more information.

For more information on bedbugs please visit here.

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