Bed bugs are a common pest that feed on blood and cause itchy bites and skin irritation. They are not known to transmit or spread disease, but they can cause a number of problems, including emotional and economic distress from lack of sleep.
There are not state or local laws regarding the presence of bed bugs in rental property. If you are a renter with bed bugs, you have the following options:
- Talk to your landlord. Make sure they understand the issue. See if they have a written policy on pest control. (This is a good question to ask if you’re moving into a new house or apartment, too.)
- Contact a certified pest control agency to discuss options for bed bug removal. Heat treatments are typically the most effective.
- If there is a structural issue with the building that you believe is allowing pests to enter your living area, you can contact the City’s Building Development Services Department at (417) 864-1056 to find out if you can register a formal complaint.
Preventing Bed Bugs
Bed bugs hitch rides in luggage, boxes, shoes and other mobile objects. They are not drawn to unsanitary areas, so you can keep a clean house and still get them.
- Be thorough when buying used home items or purchasing from rent-to-own stores. Before bringing these items home, inspect them thoroughly. Never take bedding or furniture that has been left on the curb for disposal.
- When traveling, survey your hotel room for signs of bed bug infestations, such as red or dark brown spots on bed sheets. Lift the mattress and other furniture items to look for bed bug hiding places. Elevate all luggage and personal items. Use racks to keep these items away from carpets and beds or place items in the bathtub. Examine all luggage and personal items before returning home to prevent bed bug migration.
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs
The best way to get rid of bed bugs is to kill them with high heat—temperatures of at least 113 degrees Fahrenheit for at least one hour are necessary. The higher the temperature, the shorter the time needed to kill bed bugs at all life stages.
- Put bedding and clothing in the dryer at high temperatures to kill bed bugs (just washing will generally not kill bed bugs).
- Chemicals can be used but typically aren’t as effective. If you choose to use a pesticide, make sure the product is effective against bedbugs AND intended for indoor use. You can use the EPA’s online product search tool if you are not sure. Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly can make you sick and may make the problem worse by causing the bed bugs to hide where the pesticide won’t reach them.
Head lice infestations are common, especially in school-aged children. They are not known to transmit or spread disease, but they can cause an extremely itchy scalp and are easily passed from one person’s head to another.
Preventing Head Lice
- Avoid head-to-head contact.
- Do not share items such as hats, combs, towels or headphones.
- If you or someone in your home has head lice:
- disinfest combs and brushes by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5–10 minutes;
- machine wash and dry clothing and linens using the hot water laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle;
- vacuum your floor and furniture.
Note: The Health Department does not test kissing bugs. If you catch bugs you suspect are kissing bugs, contact the CDC's Division of Parasitic Disease and Malaria (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call the MU Extension in Greene County at 417-881-8908.
The likelihood of getting Chagas disease from a kissing bug in the United States is low, even if the bug is infected.
- People can have allergic reactions to the bite of a kissing bug.
- Symptoms include redness and swelling.
- An allergic reaction does not mean you have Chagas disease.
Kissing bugs can be found outdoors:
- Beneath porches.
- Between rocky structures.
- Under cement.
- In wood, brush piles, or beneath bark.
- In rodent nests or animal burrows.
- In dog houses or kennels.
- In chicken coops or houses.
Chagas disease is caused by the parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi. Symptoms include:
- Acute Phase: swelling at the site of the bug bite, fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting.
- Chronic Phase: cardiac complications, intestinal complications.
- There is anti-parasitic treatment available through the CDC.
Chagas disease is transmitted to humans and animals via the kissing bug; however, transmission of Chagas disease to a human is not easy. In fact, it is estimated that there is only 1 case of Chagas for every 900 – 4,000 contacts w/ infected kissing bugs.
- The parasite is found in bug feces.
- The kissing bug defecates while feeding.
- Feces can get rubbed into the wound or into a mucous membrane leading to infection.
- Chagas disease is NOT transmitted person-to-person.
Avoiding Mosquito Bites
- Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active
- Use an EPA-approved insect repellent and follow the instructions on the product label
- If you're sitting outdoors on your porch or deck, use a fan. This simple tip is highly effective, as mosquitoes are bad fliers and are easily blown away by fans
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when spending time outdoors
- Stay indoors at sunrise, sunset and early in the evening when mosquitoes are most active, especially if there is a mosquito-borne disease warning in effect
- Replace your outdoor lights with yellow "bug" lights, which tend to attract fewer mosquitoes than ordinary lights. The yellow lights are NOT repellents, however
- Make sure window and door screens are "bug tight"
- Completely cover baby carriers and beds with netting
Getting rid of mosquitoes:
- Eliminate mosquito habitats in yards by removing standing water; a mosquito can breed in as little as one teaspoon of standing water
- Change the water in pet dishes daily
- Change the water in bird baths every 3 to 4 days
- Dispose of old tires, cans, wading pools, or any other items that collect water
- Make sure roof gutters are draining properly
- Use mosquito-eliminating products according to product labels in standing water, like ponds
- Keep swimming pool water treated and circulating daily, and eliminate standing water from pool covers
- Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use
Some local hardware stores may carry a product called Mosquito Dunk® that contains a larvicide -- Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI) -- for use in areas of standing water around the home. Dunks are commonly used in areas where standing water cannot be simply eliminated such as landscaping ponds or rain barrels. If these products are purchased for home use, we recommend careful reading of the hazards label, directions, and details regarding storage and handling.
Products with a low concentration of DEET may be appropriate for situations where exposure to mosquitoes is minimal. Higher concentrations of DEET may be useful in highly infested areas or with species that are more difficult to repel. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used on children should not contain more than 10% DEET. Concentrations of up to 30% DEET have been shown to be acceptable for adults. Where appropriate, consider using non-chemical ways to deter biting insects such as protective clothing (as outlined above), window and door screens, and wearable netting when camping.
A few tips concerning the use of DEET:
- Use DEET according to manufacturer's directions on the label.
- Store DEET out of reach of children.
- Use caution when using repellents containing DEET on children.
- Do not apply DEET directly on to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
- Do not apply on hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
- Do not allow children to apply repellents themselves.
- As with chemical exposure in general, pregnant women should take care to avoid exposures to repellents when practical.
- Wash all treated skin and clothing with soap and water after returning indoors.
- Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Depending on the concentration of DEET in a product, it can be effective for approximately 3-6 hours. Avoid prolonged or excessive use of DEET. Use sparingly to cover exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply to skin covered by clothing.
Avoiding tick bites:
- Treat clothing with products containing 0.5% permethrin, and use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
- Do not use insect repellent on infants under 2 months old.
- Do not use OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
- Use the EPA’s search tool to find the right repellent for you.
- Avoid contact with ticks by avoiding wooded or brushy areas with high grass.
- Check clothing, skin, gear, and pets for ticks once indoors.
- Use tweezers to grab the tick as close to your skin as possible.
- Pull upward evenly, without twisting or jerking the tick.
- Thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands.
- Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet or placing it in a sealed bag or container and throwing it away.