Explosion of bloodsucking bed bugs is fuelled by the pests becoming IMMUNE to treatments, scientists warn | The Sun
BLOODSUCKING bed bugs are becoming resistant to insecticides, scientists warned today.
An infestation of the critters has invaded public transport, cafes, hotels, cinemas and homes across France, and they appear to be heading to Britain.
Several of the creatures have been spotted on trains and buses in the UK, sparking fears they have spread from mainland Europe.
One was seen on a window in Manchester, while another was seemingly caught on camera crawling up a passenger's leg on the Victoria Line in London.
Luton Council in Bedfordshire also said it was receiving an "alarming" number of calls about the creepy crawlies.
Experts blame international holidays and a resistance to pest control products for the rapid spread.
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Robert Smith, emeritus professor at the University of Huddersfield, said: "Bed bug infestations have become more common over many years in the UK and across the world.
"This is probably because of the evolution of resistance to insecticides, and might also be affected by restrictions in availability and use of some insecticides."
James Logan, professor of medical entomology and director of Arctech Innovation at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, added: "It's not surprising to hear reports [of bed bugs in Luton]; they are on the increase globally.
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"It appears we are seeing year-on-year increases in call-outs of pest control companies to bed bug infestations.
"They are becoming resistant to insecticides that we normally use to kill them.
"We are also seeing increasing travel which helps them to spread.
"It is very likely that we are going to hear about more infestations in the UK."
Bed bugs feed on blood by biting people. They create wounds that can be itchy but do not usually cause other health problems.
The insects often live on furniture or bedding and can spread by being on clothes or luggage.
Sightings have been reported across France over the last week, with many cases in Paris.
There have since been growing reports across England.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the fresh threat of an outbreak in the capital was "a real source of concern".
Thankfully there are things you can do to prevent bed bugs, and some simple steps to take if you've already got them.
Prof Logan said: "Be wary when staying in hotels or other accommodation.
- "Check reviews before you go.
- "Keep luggage off the floor and zipped up.
- "Hang clothes in the wardrobe – avoid the drawers.
- "Don't leave clothing on the floor.
- "If you see bed bugs or suspect them, ask to move rooms, or at worst, move hotels.
"When you get home, if you think you stayed somewhere with bed bugs, the best thing to do is to unpack your bag outside in the garden, and you can also bag up your clothes and stick them in the freezer for a few days or wash them at a very high temperature."
Prof Smith added: "Bed bugs can be hard to get rid of because they live for many months and hide in cracks and crevices during the day.
"I avoid unpacking luggage in hotels (I leave my clothes in a zipped suitcase) and never use hotel drawers to reduce the chances of picking up unwanted bugs.
"Some people store their suitcases in the hotel bathtub."
If you think you have bed bugs at home, call a pest controller as soon as possible, both scientists urged.
"It is really important because the earlier you catch them, the easier it is to treat an infestation," Prof Logan said.
While Prof Smith added: "The thought of these bloodsuckers might be unpleasant, but don't panic as they don't carry or spread any human diseases, as far as we know.
"Washing bed clothes at a higher temperature or putting sheets in sealed bags in a freezer for a couple of days will kill some of them off.
"Regular vacuum cleaning of mattresses and the crevices in bedrooms will help.
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"You are likely to need professional help from your local council or pest-control company, however, if you want to eliminate them completely."
Airlines, hotels, and bus and train operators, including Eurostar, have introduced prevention measures across their networks.
Signs of bed bugs and how to treat bites
BED bugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.
Common signs of the critters include:
- Bites – often on skin exposed while sleeping (like the face, neck and arms)
- Spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing the creatures)
- Small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bed bug poo)
Bites normally clear up on their own in about a week. But if they are causing you problems, you can:
- Put something cool on the affected skin – e.g. a clean, damp cloth to reduce itching and swelling
- Keep the skin clean
- Avoid scratching the bites to minimise your chances of getting an infection
- Ask a pharmacist about mild steroid creams or antihistamines
If your bites are very painful, swollen or itchy after trying these treatments, or the pain or swelling is spreading, see your GP.
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