OTTUMWA — Sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite.
For most people, sleeping tight won't be possible after hearing the words "bed bugs."
Local health officials presented "Bed Bugs: Dispelling the Myths and Getting to the Truth," a lecture this wek.
The panel of speakers included Shawn Dawson, M.D.; Lynelle Diers, executive director of Wapello County Health; Cheri Barnhart, director of ORHC Home Care; and Paula Simplot, who oversees infection control at the hospital.
Diers said bed bugs are in Wapello County and her department have seen an increase in numbers.
"We've had them here for the past four or five years," Diers said. "It doesn't matter who you are. The bugs can get into your stuff. There's a prevalence of them at garage sales, hitchhikers can bring them in, and the bugs can be in books or hiding along baseboards or in keyholes."
Diers also warned about mattresses and other items left in front of homes. She warned people not to "take just anything" from what someone else threw out. She also noted travelers should be very careful.
"Bugs are everywhere. My son was getting out of the military after being overseas," she said. "He told us about the bed bugs. They are here, and they are prevalent."
Dawson said bed bugs are about one-quarter inch long when grown. That means they're not easy to see. But the bugs do bite as they go down someone's leg, and then an itchy rash will develop.
Dawson said one of the ways to deal with the bugs is to get special bed covers, pillows, and mattresses. Another option is to get some double-sided tape and put it along the baseboards, and the bugs will get stuck on the tape.
"If you're traveling and the family goes to a motel, check the seams of the mattress," he said. "If you have the bug bites, they're similar to mosquitoes. You can put ice on the bites and use benadryl."
Dawson also noted pest control workers advise people to vacuum everything and dry clothes at a high setting because it will kill the bugs and their eggs.
Barnhart said the bug bites are hard to spot.
"The bugs are rusty colored, and they give off a sweet, musty odor," Barnhart said. "And as they feed, they get larger."
Simplot said bed bugs have been around since the 17th century.
"The colonists brought them in, and by World War II they were saying, 'Don't let the bed bugs bite,'" she said. "Next came the introduction of DEET, and that eliminated a lot of bugs. In recent years, we're seeing them come back."
Barnhart also noted today's mobile society is bringing in a lot things, and she encouraged people to be cautious.