June 7, 2011

The following excerpts are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Fact Sheet.

Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals. They are reddish-brown in color, wingless, and range from 1 to 7 millimeters in length. They can live several months without a blood meal.

Infestations of these insects usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep or spend a significant period of time. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms.

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, and under any clutter or objects around a bed. Their small flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and they can remain in place for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs can travel over 100 feet in one night, but they tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. Bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they can transport stow-away bed bugs as they travel potentially infesting new areas, including their homes, as they relocate.

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by bite marks that appear on the face, neck, arms, hands, and any other body parts. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs may include the exoskeletons of bed bugs after molting, bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets, a sweet musty odor, and rusty-colored blood spots from their blood-filled fecal material that is often excreted on the mattress or nearby furniture.

When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from feeling the bite. Because bites usually occur while people are sleeping, most people do not realize they have been bitten until marks appear. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea – a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Everyone is at risk for bed bugs bites when visiting an infested area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has an increased risk for being bitten and for spreading a bed bug infestation.

Bed bugs cause a variety of negative physical health, mental health and economic consequences. Many people have mild to severe allergic reaction to the bites with effects ranging from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body reaction). These bites can also lead to secondary infections of the skin such as impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphanigitis. Bed bugs may also affect the mental health of people living in infested homes. Reported effects include anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions.

The current national problem with bed bugs is likely due to the convergence of three human behaviors: lack of awareness of the historical and biological link humans have with bed bugs, increased international travel, and past over-reliance on pesticides. Bed bugs are a “nest parasite” that resides in the human nest – the bedroom. Over time, bed bugs have evolved to develop resistance to many of the chemical pesticides currently used. In fact, bed bugs were widely resistant to DDT by the mid-1950s.

Now that bed bug populations are rapidly increasing, additional research is needed to determine the reasons for the resurgence, the potential for bed bugs to transmit disease and their impact on public health.

Bed Bug Lawsuits

With the recent resurgence of bed bug infestations in the U.S., personal injury claims and lawsuits have been filed against hotels, dry cleaners, cruise lines, rental furniture companies, apartment buildings and complexes, etc. Some lawsuits are also filed against pest management companies for their alleged failure to properly treat and manage bed bug outbreaks

One problem with efforts to control bed bugs is that bed bugs have evolved to develop resistance to many of the chemical pesticides currently in use. Treatment and management efforts usually consist of using monitoring devices, removing clutter where bed bugs can hide, applying heat treatment, vacuuming, sealing cracks and crevices to remove hiding places, using non-chemical pesticides (such as diatomaceous earth), and/or use of effective chemical pesticides.

One of the most common allegations in a bed bug lawsuit is that the owner and/or manager of the hotel, apartment building, cruise line, etc. knew or should have known of prior bed bug infestations in their facilities and either failed to timely and effectively address and resolve the bed bugs (that is, failed to treat) or negligently (inadequately) treated the infestation. The claims typically are based on breach of contract and/or breach of a duty owed from the owner/manager to the tenant/resident/passenger. Some states allow for punitive damages if the actions of the owner/landlord were wanton and willful or intentional and malicious (a common allegation is that the owner/landlord knew of the bed bug infestation but denied the prior infestation or intentionally failed to warn the tenant/resident/passenger of the bed bug problem).

If you or a family member were subjected to bed bug bites or a bed bug infestation, you may have a claim for damages against the responsible parties.  Our website may be able to put you in contact with lawyers in your local area who handle bed bug lawsuits. Or call us toll free 800-295-3959.