The bedbug is known as one of the most difficult pests to eradicate from a home. Bedbugs have existed for literally thousands of years, feeding on the blood of humans. Around the World War II era, they were thought to have been completely eliminated by DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) a pesticide developed in the 1940’s. However, there has been a reemergence of these challenging pests and they may now be carrying something deadly. Research conducted by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has indicated that bedbugs may be able to transmit the resilient bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, known to cause MRSA, from human to human. This form of bacterial infection is highly resistant to several different antibiotics and can even be life threatening. It is for this reason that identifying if your home has bedbugs and testing for the existence of MRSA via lab analysis is very important to your health.
It has been hypothesized that insects, like that of the bedbug, that survive on the consumption of blood can not only “be infected with some blood-borne diseases,” but can transmit them from one individual to another. As mentioned above, the bacterial infection known as MRSA has been known to be carried by insects like that of the bedbug and testing has shown the bacterium present in these pests. Whether passive transmission is possible has yet to be proven, however it is important to understand what MRSA is, how to test for its presence, how to remove it from your home, and the importance of removing the pests that carry it as well.
MRSA “sickens about 90,000 people a year in the U.S. and kills about 15,000, according to the CDC.” Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA as it is commonly known consists of two different types. The most common is Healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) which is seen in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. It generally affects individuals that have had recent surgery or been hospitalized within a year period of time and is responsible for a large amount of hospital-acquired staph infections. The other form of MRSA is Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) this does not affect the immune impaired and can spread in communal settings. For example, athletes who share equipment or personal items can develop it and it can even be retrieved from going to your local gym. Children can be affected at their daycare facility, and those within the military are at high risk as well. The second form is associated with overcrowding, and individuals living in close proximity to one another. This particular form of MRSA is currently on the rise. An article in the San Francisco Business Times even linked the deadly bacteria to cloth seats on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), a train that runs through the San Francisco Bay Area. The City will now use $2 million to replace the infected seats and provide a more resistant form of seating material for their new cars coming in 2017.
MRSA infection is accompanied by a red, swollen and painful area somewhere on the skin. At the site of infection there may be drainage of pus or other fluids and this type of infection can create fever, skin abscess, and warmth around the site of infection. If the infection becomes more severe the following symptoms may be present: chest pain, chills, cough, fatigue, fever, malaise, headache, muscle aches, rash, and shortness of breath. Since bedbugs may contribute to this awful bacterium, it is imperative that testing be done if bedbugs are present in a home or building to determine if cleanup and decontamination is necessary.
Recent reports submitted to the CDC, indicate the possibility of transmitting disease from bedbugs to humans with a case of three individuals hospitalized in a local Vancouver hospital. The three individuals who came to hospital were admitted with bacterial infections and were found to be infested with bedbugs. Two doctors that encountered the patients decided to collect 5 bedbugs from each individual to test the possibility that the insects may be “vectors for the transmission of antimicrobial drug–resistant pathogens.” To determine if the bugs carried the bacteria associated with MRSA or any other form of infection, the doctors crushed the bugs “onto standard microbiological media.” What the doctors discovered was that for two of the individuals, “VRE was isolated from 1 bedbug each.” VRE stands for vancomycin-resistant enterococci, a less serious bacterial infection. For the third patient, “MRSA was isolated from 3 bedbugs.” As discussed above, this particular form of infection can be very harmful and severely resistant to antibiotics.
Although the transmission of blood-borne pathogens by bedbugs is not entirely substantiated, bites associated with these insects have been proven to create allergic reactions in some people. Most of these reactions revolve around skin irritation. Also if further injury is made to the site of the bite, it can create an “entry point for colonizing bacteria.” This can potentially result in what is known as a “superinfection,” which is caused by a recurring infection that has become resistant to medication. As the report continues to say, there has been a significant increase in the number of bedbug infestations worldwide and in Downtown Eastside Vancouver “31% of residents have reported bedbug infestation.” Not only are bedbugs an issue in the above mentioned area, but also the prevalence of MRSA, with nearly 55% of individuals seen at the emergency department having some form of MRSA. “The phenotype of the MRSA recovered from the bedbugs was consistent with community-associated MRSA” and this was consistent with the infections prevalent in this particular area. “Consequently, these insects may act as a hidden environmental reservoir for MRSA and may promote the spread of MRSA in impoverished and overcrowded communities.”
It was thought that bedbugs had been completely eradicated several decades ago. However, they have come back in full force in recent years. There are a few reasons why bedbugs have come back more recently and they include more people traveling internationally, resistance to several insecticides, changes in pest control practices, and “grossly ineffective self-help control practices which probably help spread infestations.” Some of the ways that an individual can help to spread the infestation include the deposing of materials or furniture thought to have bed bugs on them without the proper testing, inspection, or treatment; removing furniture and other items to keep a room suspected of containing bedbugs vacant for a period of time, which can result in the bedbugs merely migrating to another part of the home to find a blood meal; using “bug bombs” and other common aerosol insecticides can be grossly ineffective if not properly applied; and finally, the placing of furniture and other infested items outside in the sun or in freezing temperatures are generally not affective.
One of the first indicators that your home may contain bedbugs is the appearance of bites that immerge on your body or a family member’s body after sleeping in the home. These bites generally appear as red bumps, often with a darker red spot in the center. They will be itchy, and several bites will be together in either a line or cluster pattern. The bites will be located on the face, neck, arms and hands. For some, bites from these bugs can result in mild to severe allergic reaction that include severe itching, and hives. The general life expectancy of a female bedbug is approximately 10 months and during this time she can lay over 200 eggs. Common places for bedbugs to hide include mattresses, box springs, under paint or wallpaper that is peeling, around light switch plates, under carpeting or near baseboards, and in the seams of upholstered furniture. Many individuals are under the impression that bedbugs are a sign of unsanitary living conditions, however a bedbug is merely in search of warm hosts, and they can appear in a home that is considered “pristine.” Some more common areas that contain bedbugs include apartment complexes, dorm rooms, homeless shelters, hotels/motels, military barracks and refugee camps. This is not due to cleanliness, but rather the high turnover in occupancy.
Harold Harlan who is considered a “career bug expert for the military,” provides some important information in regards to bedbugs. He illuminates on the fact that cleaning alone will not rid your home of these pests. It is necessary to contact a Pest Management Professional (PMPs) that has the in-depth knowledge of their biology and hiding spots. They will also have a better understanding of the best products to eliminate the problem and those with a limited understanding of this insect cannot expect to control even a small infestation. It is necessary to also understand the proper application of insecticides, as per the standards set forth by the EPA. If the product is not sufficiently applied to the area containing the insects, it will not properly eradicate them.
Bedbugs can be killed using heat and in some cases, steam. The death point for bedbugs is between 114-115° F. Heat can be used to kill bedbugs and their eggs in furniture, clothing and carpet. If a pest management professional (PMP) is hired, in many cases they will use a steamer to apply heat to the infested area. This process is very time consuming and it alone cannot kill all the bedbugs present. Another possible treatment is that of Pressurized Carbon Dioxide Snow, which uses CO2 snow at -108° F to freeze the bugs to death. Again, other control methods will be necessary to ensure that the infestation is quelled completely. The PMPs may also use diatomaceous earth (DE) which is a dust made of the skeletons of an organism called a diatom. What this dust does is essentially dissolves the extra layer on a bedbug that maintains its body moisture. A professional should be hired to use this product to ensure that the proper product is selected and applied in the right areas. You may also have your mattress and your box spring encased by a professional as well. This will keep any new bedbugs from making their way into the bed as well as keeping the existing bugs in and suffocating them. One of the most efficient ways of eradicating an infestation of these nasty pests is heating systems. These heating systems can be used to raise the temperature of a room or entire structure to 135° F, which is above the temperature that kills bedbugs (114-115° F). This technology is highly effective; none of the materials in the home need to be moved, and most infestations can be destroyed with just one treatment. This process should be done by a professional pest management company.
Testing for the existence of MRSA in a home can be a good decision especially if bedbugs are present, or thought to be present. Even though conclusive evidence does not currently exist to support the theory that bedbugs can transmit disease from human to human, bug bites can become infected and, if MRSA is present, provide an entry point for infection. To properly test for biohazards such as MRSA one should use an industry-certified testing and decontamination service. Doing the proper surface testing can help determine if the area needs to be decontaminated and give the occupants the information necessary to determine if they should contact a healthcare professional. It is also important to contact a professional so that cross-contaminating of your home or business does not occur. There exists specific protocol and procedures that have been set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the Indoor Environmental Association (IEA) that must be followed during the process. This is important to ensure that the environment is safe and any biological contaminants that are present are properly removed. For the safety of all occupants in home or business it is important to know if bedbugs are present and if so, proper environmental testing should be performed.