Bed bug warriors gather in Denver summit

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Rose Eckert-Jantzie of ZappBug places a suitcase into the ZappBug Oven 2 on display at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. The portable heat treatment enclosure heats the suitcase and its belongings to 120 degrees. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

“Don’t let the bedbugs bite” carries a much different meaning for about 450 people who gathered in Denver on Thursday and Friday for a conference dedicated to fighting the loathsome pests.

Bedbugs, a bane to humans for millennia, had mostly faded from public concern in the United States in recent decades, until they returned with a vengeance around 2000.

A lot of the institutional knowledge to detect and treat the bugs had vanished, and conferences offer a way to share the latest research and treatment methods, said National Pest Management Association vice president Jim Fredericks.

The Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel hosted the Global Bed Bug Summit in December 2013 and again this year, not because the problem is any worse in Colorado, but because of the state’s central location, he said.

Bedbugs, whose bites can trigger itching and skin irritation, aren’t disease transmitters like mosquitoes. They focus on humans, making cross-species disease transmission rare. And when they do bite, they tend to feast on the one or two occupants in a bed.

When the blood they ingest contains HIV, hepatitis or other viruses, they metabolize the pathogens in some way that hinders transmission, noted Stphane Perron, an environmental health scientist with the Montreal Public Health Department.

The larger and still underappreciated danger from bedbugs comes in the mental toll they take on those suffering infestations, or who believe they are, Perron said.

Bedbugs hit humans in the most intimate of settings, their beds, and when they are most vulnerable, while asleep, making them harder to escape than, say, mosquitoes or ants.

A Montreal study of people in vulnerable populations, like the ill and elderly, found those facing bedbugs infestations were five times more likely to suffer anxiety and sleep deprivation.

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Bed bug warriors gather in Denver summit

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