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Mostly absent from the U.S. & Canada for the past fifty years, bed bugs are making a comeback. Increased international travel and immigration, along with the loss of effective insecticides, has helped this insect spread faster than any other urban insect pest. There has been a resurgence of bed bugs worldwide in the past several years. In B.C., the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver has been particularly hard hit. However, bed bugs have also been found in many buildings across British Columbia, including private homes, hotels, universities and residential care homes.
Bed bugs are small brownish, flattened parasites – about the size of an apple seed. They feed on the blood of humans, birds and other animals. Bed bugs do not live on their hosts, unlike lice or fleas, but visit them to feed, mostly at night. A bed bug bite is like a mosquito bite. It may result in a red, itchy bump, but many people have no reaction at all. Bed bugs are very resilient and hard to eliminate. They cannot fly, but spread by “hitching rides” on clothing, purses and luggage. They also establish themselves in mattresses and bedding, furniture, cracks in walls and even electronics. The bugs often spread when people are moving or travelling.
Despite of the fact that bedbugs bite humans, the B.C. Ministry of Health and Health Canada have not classified bed bug infestations as a public health concern because the bugs have not been known to transfer disease. The health risk primarily comes from secondary infection and scarring.