Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bedbugs as a Black Swan

Bedbugs Are Resistant Pesky Parasites
It may be hard for many people to think something as small as a bedbug has the potential to become a "Black Swan" but it could happen if their numbers ever reach critical mass. Recently there has been a huge increase of news articles about bedbugs, this is because there has been a huge increase in the number of these nasty and  resilient little blood suckers. They are even finding their way into hospitals, more than a third of pest-management companies treated bedbug infestations in hospitals in 2012, 6% more than the year before and more than twice as many as in 2010, according to a survey released today by the National Pest Management Association. Bedbug experts have even reported seeing them in ambulances

The percentage of exterminators dealing with bedbugs in nursing homes has also almost doubled since 2010, to 46%. . Hospitals are already cracking down on anything that could increase the risk of patient infections, which not only can be deadly but may also lead to more readmissions and reduced federal funding under the Affordable Care Act. While bedbugs have not been found to transmit infections to humans, they leave itchy bites after feeding on people’s blood, which can lead to secondary infections when victims scratch, opening themselves up to bacteria. This is especially problematic in hospitals, where this increases the likelihood of catching highly potent and contagious staph infections. 

While hospitals are putting a growing emphasis on strict cleanliness and sterilization protocols, bedbugs still arrive via the many patients and visitors going in and out of their emergency rooms and waiting areas. The high instance of bedbugs in nursing homes is also concerning, because hospitals receive many transfers from such facilities, and elderly people often don’t exhibit the same telltale signs of bedbugs, the red, raised, itchy lesions that other patients do. If bedbugs become a problem in a hospital, they can be a persistent nuisance.

These bugs like to hide out in dark places where they are out of site. They come out at night and they are ferocious. They are very difficult and expensive to get rid of. Why are we having bedbug problems all of the sudden? Many people say you can thank groups like the Sierra Club and the EPA. They petitioned congress to get rid of household pesticides like Sevin that had been proven very safe for a homeowner to use. Now, there is nothing a homeowner can use to stop these pests. Even professional applicators are having trouble finding effective pesticides, other then pesticides high temperatures is the only other way to kill both the bugs and their eggs.

The Midwest seems to be ground zero in the battle to rid these parasites from the role of our being our unwanted companions. Dominating the list, of areas with the most infestations are three cities from Ohio. The problem there is so bad that the state unsuccessfully petitioned the EPA to allow in-home use of propoxur, a pesticide banned in the 1990s to treat the pests. The fear is that propoxur might work for a few years but that it would select for the genetically resistant bedbugs, meaning in the future, bedbugs would be right back with infestations that would be even harder to eradicate.

With increased travel, both internationally and domestically, and higher bedbug resistance to existing pesticides, business is booming for exterminators..Orkin recently released its rankings of U.S. cities in order of the number of bedbug treatments from January to December 2012. The “Windy City” of Chicago tops the list, followed by Detroit, Los Angeles, Denver and Cincinnati. Here are the top 20 U.S. cities, ranked in order of the number of bedbug treatments.  The number in parenthesis is the shift in ranking compared to January to December 2011:

1- Chicago (+1)       2- Detroit (+1)       3-  Los Angeles (+2)      4- Denver 
5- Cincinnati (-4)     6- Columbus, Ohio     7- Washington, D.C. (+1) 
8- Cleveland/Akron/Canton (+5)     9-  Dallas/Ft. Worth (-2)     10- New York (-1) 
11- Dayton, Ohio (+4)     12- Richmond/Petersburg, Va. (-2)     13- Seattle/Tacoma (+14) 
14- San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (-2)   15- Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville, N.C. (+4) 
16- Indianapolis (+15)     17- Omaha, Neb. (+11)
18-  Houston (-7)     19- Milwaukee (+13)     20- Baltimore (-2)  

This list shows that bedbugs continue to be a problem throughout the U.S. Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Orkin entomologist and Technical Services Director said in a statement. “Based on the diversity of cities on the list, we all need to be very cautious when we travel — whether it is business or pleasure, or to visit family, friends or vacation.” Bedbugs are about the size and color of a flat apple seed, and are found not only on mattresses and upholstery, but in suitcases, boxes, shoes, wallpaper and headboards. Harrison stresses that it’s important to be vigilant and take proper precautions wherever you are. It’s a common misconception that sanitation is a factor in developing the tiny pests.

The National Pest Management Association conducted an international study earlier this year that revealed 95 percent of the U.S. pest-management companies surveyed encountered a bedbug infestation in the last year. Before 2000, just 25 percent of companies surveyed had encountered bedbugs. What’s behind the resurgence? Experts point to increased travel, greater resistance to insecticides, and lack of societal awareness. As well, the tiny red bugs bear a stigma that discourages tenants, landlords, and hotels from reporting infestations, add to this that no one looks favorably on a building that has had a bedbug infestation. As a landlord who has had one encounter with these pest I confirm they are no laughing matter.

If you have ever seen pictures of anyone that has been severely nibbled at by these pest you realize this in nothing to take lightly, bedbugs can greatly reduce ones quality of life. In the past the stigma of getting bedbugs was a private issue but the pesky parasites are becoming an increasingly public  problem. Infestations are now expanding and moving from residential to commercial properties. A survey Orkin commissioned with the Building Owners and Managers Association International earlier this year produced staggering results: one in 10 respondents reported bedbug incidents on commercial property. Orkin’s commercial business tripled last year, while its residential business “merely” doubled.

So to put this post to bed, the reason I mentioned Bedbugs as a Black Swan is because if you take a moment imagine how these pesky little monsters could force us to change and alter our lifestyles. Their potential to disrupt our lives is shocking. If they continue to get a foothold in our lives, and and are able to expand their domain, the cost to control them could become massive. Bedbugs have the potential to crimp our daily routines, impacting even decisions to have a group on friends into our home, or limiting our ability to move freely without fear that we will pick up these unwanted hitchhikers. As long as a mutant strand on bedbugs does not become resistant to heat there is hope, but it is ironic that global warming may be our only salvation.

1 comment:

  1. Because of the title of your blog I assumed you were going to explain that the number of people that have been displaced in recent years due the economic upheaval of the last five years has caused the bugs to be resurgent and only when we see a lowering of the inefestations can we assume the economy is on the way back to prosperity
    but no