I couldn’t find the pigs at the state fair Sunday. I saw cows, chickens, rabbits, goats, pigeons, doves and geese, but no pigs. The baby pigs were always one of my favorite animals to see at the state fair, though I don’t know why since I always feel bad that they eventually could end up in my belly.
Meat guilt aside, I wanted to see the piglets. So I stopped at a booth near the agricultural wing to inquire as to their whereabouts. I learned the pigs wouldn’t be there until Tuesday – so disappointing! – and I also learned about another creature altogether different from pigs when I looked down and saw something floating in a vial.
“What’s that?” I asked. I almost wish I hadn’t.
It was a bedbug. A state agency’s name I can’t remember was taking advantage of the foot traffic at the fair to alert people to a growing problem.
According to the information at the booth, bedbugs were all but eradicated in the United States following World War II, when pesticides with chemicals now banned were used. In the late 1990s, however, bedbug infestations started making the news. Now bedbugs have been found in hotels, nursing homes, public housing, apartment complexes, moving vans, jails, furniture rental stores, dormitories and other multi-unit dwellings as well as in single-family homes, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Web site.
Although bedbugs aren’t known to spread disease, no one wants them hanging around in their bed. They’re like something out of a horror film. They feed on human blood, usually from 1-4 a.m., the hours when most of us are in our deepest sleep. Plus, they’re tiny and hard to spot. Bed bugs are about 1/4-inch long, with reddish-brown, oval, flattened bodies, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. They are easily mistaken for ticks or roaches.
I remember a National Public Radio report from a while back in which a woman discussed strange spots on her ankles. Her dermatologist was baffled and finally suggested it might be a nervous condition. The woman later saw something on the news about bedbugs and decided to take a look at her mattress. It was covered.
Having bedbugs isn’t a matter of poor hygiene. They’re sort of like head lice in that regard. Anyone can get them, anytime. They are found in fabric and wood, not metal and plastic, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Getting rid of them is no easy task, so the cabinet suggests prevention first:
• Do not pick up any used furniture or mattresses/box springs from the roadside or by garbage containers.
• If you have gotten furniture from a rental service, always check the seams and any creased areas for bed bugs.
• When traveling, check all motel rooms thoroughly before setting your luggage on the floor or bed.
• Do not sit on furniture or lay in beds where you think there may be a problem.
• While cleanliness is not a major factor in fighting bed bugs, it is a good idea not to have clutter around your home or in your room.
• Once bed bugs are in a building, they often spread from room to room. Completely checking the problem is necessary so all areas can be treated to prevent spreading.
Bedbugs look like dark spots on the seams of mattresses. They also leave blood and fecal stains. If you think you have a bedbug problem, lots of steam cleaning and bagging of infested items could be in your future. Check the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Web site, http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/info/phps/Bed+Bugs.htm, for more information.
Stephanie Hornback is assistant editor at The Kentucky Standard and a former employee of The LaRue County Herald News.