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BEDBUGS: THE VAMPIRE ROOMMATES THAT NEEDS TO BE DISLODGED.

 

Take care of your body, it is the only place you have to live. Take care of your room, it is the only place you have to enjoy a good sleep. Our health is our concern because it is the catalyst that moves us, it can never be taken for granted; no one does, perhaps, those who do pay the price later. It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver-Mahatma Gandhi.
Public health literature has proven that insects are the major cause of diseases worldwide; bedbugs are not an exception, they are a major public health pest. Bedbugs(Cimex spp) are insect species that feed on blood, causing itchy bites and generally irritating their human hosts. Bed bugs survive entirely on blood, so one can imagine the pints of blood you would lose every day if your room is infested. Though they are known not to cause any serious disease, they are mechanical vectors that transfer disease-causing pathogens. Their bites on the human skin result in itchings, body scratching and skin rashes.
Reports on bedbugs feeding on humans are beyond two centuries old. The insects were known to be inhabiting tree trunks and feed on bats. They later adapted to feeding on humans who were living in tree trunks and caves. With the emergence of civilization, as humans moved into improved shelters, the bugs followed them, since then, bugs have been in human dwellings to this day. An attempt to control them got successful with the introduction of the DDT during the second world war. However, the victory chants never lasted, DDT was banned, and the bugs resurfaced. From one room to the other, one school to the other and one community to the other, humans have passively transported them. Intercontinental travel and trade in goods especially second-hand goods have been attributed to be the reasons behind the quantum spread and higher infestation levels worldwide. Entomologist all over the world have made diverse efforts to help eradicate the bugs but to no avail. The insects have developed resistance to the many insecticides meant to exterminate them. They are known to have special enzymes that help them to adapt to environmental changes, thus making it difficult to clear them out from human residence.

There were Media reports in the early part of 2016 on bed bug invasion in dormitories of various Senior high schools across the country. Hotels, motels, guest houses, hospitals, transport services and domestic homes are all victims of bed bug invasion. The stigma and the shame surrounding their infestation have denied affected persons from reporting. This is due to the myth surrounding their infestation as being caused by dirt and an uncleaned room. But truth be told, this myth is false and people need not believe it.

Inadequate knowledge on bedbug biology is a major reason for their spread, and until the statutory body starts educating the public on bed bugs, fighting them will never be won. It is still an issue in our senior high schools, which is silently causing havoc to students. School administrators should educate students on bedbugs, having an informed knowledge of their biology is a first step in conquering their invasion. It costs less to prevent an infestation than throwing them out when they get access to our rooms, especially when their population increases. We should be vigilante any time we enter into a new room whether to sleep for a day or more or to sit for a while. It will be appropriate to do self-inspection in the room to be sure bed bugs are there or not. Don’t be convinced if the hotel or the facility attendant tells you that the place is secured. Take the pain to do your checks to substantiate all claims to avoid being bitten or transporting bed bugs to your homes. Bedbugs are nocturnal insects, which is to say, they are active at night. During the daytime, they hide in cracks and crevices on the walls and floors, seams of mattresses, hinges of bed, lockers, tables, chairs and any other place that could secure them from being sighted. You can also look for such signs as bloodstains, bed bugs exuvia (molted skin), dead bugs and eggs. The eggs are small whitish cream and always glued to a surface.

Funny as may sound, bed bugs sighted in the day is evidence of a highly established population, though it might always not be the case, the best advice will be that one should not slack, get up quick and do intensive inspection in the room to validate whether there are other population hiding or not. Report any suspecting case to a pest control agent near you to clear every doubt.

However, if you are convinced enough that your room(s) has or gave been infested, ensure that you go through all the integrated pest management steps to get them out. Identify the insect, inspect their possible harbourages, clear everything from the room, dismantle the bed and expose all clothing to the sun. Get any known insecticide to spray them, focusing on their harbourage areas. Wash your clothing in hot water, however, those belongings that you think should be discarded must be wrapped in a polythene bag to avoid infesting neighbours. Repeat the procedure in two weeks interval until you have succeeded in fighting them. If need be, change everything in the room, especially when the infestation is high.

Again, when you travel, never take your bag straight into your room when you return home. Inspect your bag and clothing, dry them in the hot sun before restocking them in your wardrobe.
Bed bugs present in our rooms may cause discomfort, mental stress, insomnia, anaemia, skin rashes and financial loss in fighting them. All these can have an effect on productivity at school and the workplace. You cannot afford the psychosocial effect should people see bed bug walking in your uniform while walking in a public place. The effects of bed bug invasion are enormous, it calls for a public health concern and a better education on bed bugs to help clear them from Ghana.

Government should empower the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and engage pest control agents to educate the public and tackle the menace at its infant stage before it grows extensively to attract public outcry to reduce the cost of control. School and other institutional heads should start a bed bug control campaign to enlighten people on how to stay secure and reduce the rate of spread. Bed bugs suck human blood, they will suck your blood if they come to the room, stay vigilant, let’s get them out. “True security is based on people’s welfare-on a thriving economy, on strong public health and education programmes, and fundamental respect for common humanity. Development, peace, disarmament, reconciliation and justice are not separate from security; they help to underpin it”- Ban Ki-moon.
Get the bugs out!!!

Appiah Tikwah Stephen
Entomologist
[email protected]

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