Are Bedbugs Coming to Your Hospital Next?

Are Bedbugs Coming to Your Hospital Next? The parasites called bedbugs are not just in hotels, airplanes, trains, museums, department stores, offices, and restaurants anymore. Now bedbugs have been infesting hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, taxi’s, ambulances, and many more places. They travel very well and hitch a ride on people and articles very easily.

As public awareness increases, on this problem, the admission process, in some hospitals, now includes asking patients if they have been exposed to bedbugs – while they are being asked about their name and insurance information.

Bedbugs in hospitals have become such a big deal that some senators are taking a stand and adopting policies for the hospitals in their jurisdiction to enforce. If patients answer “yes” to the pre-entry screening questionnaire, measures are taken to lessen the risk to others in the hospital. At least two hospitals in Vermont have developed a new set of procedures to prevent any bed bug threat from a possible infestation of their hospital and emergency department rooms.

The new bedbug policy for hospitals is usually posted at the registration desk. On questioning, people answering affirmative will not be able to bring any unprotected luggage items, backpacks or personal pillows in to the hospital. Any personal belongings will be double-bagged as a further act of prevention.

I found dozens of articles listed on about bedbugs in hospitals and what to do about it. Shocking! I’ve condensed that information here for you. Many hospitals do not have a bedbug prevention plan in place! Does your hospital have one yet?

Nurses protecting themselves and patients involves more than washing your hands! Picture this. You care for a patient who has brought bedbugs with him from the ambulance which carried him to the hospital. Nobody notices that they are on his clothes and in his bag of belongings. A few of them silently jump onto your clothes and hitch a ride home with you.

Would it be worth it to bring a change of clothes (in a zip-lock plastic bag) to work every day and change before leaving for home? Heat kills the bedbugs in the washer and dryer, so you could take your uniform home in a sealed plastic bag and wash it as soon as possible. You can wipe down your shoes with alcohol, and that would help. Protecting yourself, and your loved ones, is up to you.

What should I know about bedbugs? Bedbugs apparently do not transmit infections to humans. They leave itchy bites which leave red raised, itchy lesions and can become infected with scratching. “The bedbugs, and particularly the eggs of bedbugs, are even harder to kill than the spores of the bacteria,” says Dr. Dick Zoutman, a professor and infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.

An adult bedbug can survive 550 days without food. WebMD’s bedbug article says bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

Bedbugs move fast but do not fly. They can crawl quickly on floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs over a lifetime. The size of a bedbug egg is about the size of a speck of dust.

Immature bedbugs are called nymphs. They shed their skins five times before reaching maturity. Their shed skin looks kind of like a super, super tiny, empty, plastic water bottle. They require a blood meal before each shedding. Under favorable conditions they can develop fully in a month. They can produce three or more generations each year.

Where do bedbugs like to hide? They tend to live in groups in various hiding places, but they do not create nests. Just before feeding their bodies are thin and flat, making it easy for them to travel with you undetected. They can usually be found in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.

Over time, they they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected locations like the space inside the walls at electric plugs. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments

When do bedbugs usually bite? Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.

Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to mosquitoes. The only way to confirm bedbug bites is to find and identify the bugs themselves.

Signs of infestation – If you wake up with itchy areas of your body you didn’t have when you went to sleep you may have bedbugs. This is especially likely if you acquired a used bed or other used furniture near the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

-blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases.

-dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets/mattresses/bedding/walls

-bedbug fecal spota, egg shells/shed skins

-an offensive, musty odor from the bugs scent glands

If you suspect an infestation in your home, please watch some of the free YouTube video available for directions of what to do next. And then call a pest company that specializes in bedbugs. Remember – don’t panic. Bedbugs do not normally carry diseases. They’re just disgusting to have around.

What is being done about bedbugs in hospitals? Zoutman helped develop a new hospital sterilization system that can kill bedbugs. It is said to be very effective and does not use chemicals which could be dangerous to patients. The article said it is available in Canada and will hopefully be available for use in the US soon.

But the main drawback to this system is that it took up to 24 hours to kill bedbugs, and up to 36 hours to kill their eggs. They say they are now working to adapt the system to kill bed bugs even faster and more effectively.

When bedbugs were found at a Southern Indiana hospital, the patients being dismissed had to shower before leaving, put on a clean gown, and have their clothes heat treated before they could be let go.

Orkin and the American Society for Healthcare Environmental Services conducted a bedbug study on some volunteers and shared their findings. They found good news and bad news. Of those people bitten, very few experienced immediate reaction, and even fewer experienced reaction in the hours and days following. They also found that the elderly often have even less of a visible reaction to their skin than did younger adults after the bite. But because of the low reaction rates to the bites, the less likely was the infestation to be suspected or discovered.

There are pest companies all around which specialize in bedbugs. They even have specially trained bedbug dogs that are 90% accurate in finding infestations. A lot is going into this growing problem. Each of us can help stop the spread by knowing what to look for and what to do about it.