A common bedbug is engorged with blood after feeding on a human.
‘Don’t let the bedbugs bite’ also applies to isles
: I've read that bedbugs are in lots of places, especially on the mainland. Can you bring them home from a trip to the mainland? Are they here in Hawaii? How can you avoid getting the bugs when you travel?
Answer: Yes, you can bring the nasty bugs home after traveling and, in fact, that's what's blamed for the spread of the tiny bloodsuckers: They hitch a ride on clothes, luggage, boxes and furniture from one place to another.
Bedbugs can be found all over the United States, affecting all races and social classes, according to Victoria Fickle, an entomologist with the state Department of Health's Vector Control Branch.
The branch does receive calls occasionally about bedbugs, but despite their resurgence elsewhere, there has been no increase in the number of calls for the past two years.
A decade ago, a bedbug infestation anywhere in the United States was rare.
However, in a flyer distributed by Vector Control (see hawaii.gov/health), bedbugs are said to be making a "notable resurgence" in the United States because of a decrease in pesticides that had kept them in check, as well as their propensity for traveling.
There are several species of bedbugs, but the only one currently known to be in Hawaii is Cimex lectularius, aka the common bedbug. The wingless, flat, oval-shaped insects are about 3/8 inch in size, big enough to be spotted crawling around your sheets.
The good news is that even though they like human blood, bedbugs are not known to carry any diseases to humans. "So other than the itchy bite sites, they are of little medical importance," according to the Health Department.
Fickle had these words of advice to prevent bringing bedbugs back with you when traveling:
» Check your hotel for signs of the bugs. Remove the sheets and inspect the mattress (especially the seams and ticking) to look for any bugs or tiny blood spots.
"This is the most likely place you will find the bed bugs, though they could be anywhere, including the box spring, in the furniture (dressers, bed frame/headboard, etc.), and behind picture frames," Fickle said. If possible, she said you also can try pulling the bed away from the wall and checking that area.
Even if you don't see any evidence of the bugs on your bed or bedding, that doesn't mean they're not around, she said. Bites might take a while to itch and some people might not react to bites at all.
So, Fickle also advised:
» Don't keep your suitcase near the hotel bed.
» Don't use any of the furniture to store your clothes.
» Keep your suitcase zipped up.
» When you get ready to leave the hotel, place all your belongings in a plastic bag and make sure it is sealed.
» When you get home, immediately wash all your clothes and dry them at the highest temperature possible. For delicate items where washing is not possible, put them in a zip-top bag and place them in the freezer for several nights.
» Vacuum your suitcase, paying very close attention to seams and corners.
"Also, learn the signs of a bedbug infestation, so if you DO bring these guys home with you, you can recognize it and take action right away," Fickle said.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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