WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) - Many hotels, apartment complexes, dorms and even cruise ships have been battling large numbers of bed bug infestations. To help combat the problem the DC Department of Health put on a Bed Bug Summit Thursday. The summit's goal was to inform DC residents and workers about how these pests get around, and their affect on people's health.
DC resident James Stoddard isn't ashamed to say he has bed bugs. Experts say people often feel stigmatized, but they shouldn't. These tiny creatures are all over the place, and we all need to learn how to control them.
"I am going to learn a little more and share it with my neighbors. I have some readings on it, and if I don't give it to them today I will give it to them tomorrow," James said.
DC residents, property managers and health care workers want to know more about how to recognize infestations. It is more important now than ever since these insects are now proliferating in office buildings, retail stores and even libraries.
Entomologist Larry Pinto said, "Within the last 10 years we have seen it reach its tipping point where the level of bed bugs is so high in certain areas it is spreading out into all areas."
Larry Pinto also told us although these pesky critters don't carry disease, they still pose medical concerns, both physical and mental.
"Some people have very strong reaction to the bites. Scratch their bites, they'll bleed. Some will get infected. They will end up with scarring," he added.
Lala Seidensticker, another DC resident who had bed bugs, said it really took a toll on her, especially after the third go around with the critters.
"What was almost worst than the itch was the way your life goes into disarray with the treatment. I lived in a tiny studio. I had extreme depression during that time," Lala said.
It is hard to spot bed bugs, especially in the early stages, but some signs are unexplained, itchy red spots on your skin. Also, there could be scattered brown flecks on linens and mattresses, or small oval bugs on any furniture. The best way to get rid of them is to call in a professional pest control.
There are ways to prevent getting the bugs in the first place. Experts say do your home work before buying used furniture or beds that may be infested. When you travel keep luggage closed and off floors and beds in your hotel room. And when you get home from your travels make sure to wash everything right away.