Eastgate Metroplex in Tulsa isn’t alone in having a bout with bed bugs. The Centers for Disease Control website notes the pests are resurging and swiftly spreading across the U.S.
In Tulsa and Oklahoma, anecdotal evidence from professional exterminators supports the CDC’s statement. Neither the Tulsa Health Department nor the Oklahoma Department of Health tracks numbers of reports or complaints of bed bugs to compare annual figures.
Terminex, a national pest extermination company, released its first Entomologists’ Almanac, which named bed bugs as the “pest of the year” in 2017. Americans searched online for information about bed bugs more than 7.3 million times, nearly three times that of the next closest — scorpions — at 2.5 million. Third was spiders at 2.2 million.
Oklahoma came in No. 17 on Terminex’s list of Top 17 “pest-iest” states in 2017. The rankings were determined by analyzing per capita “social media chatter” on common pests.
Randy Wisdom, general pest manager for Tulsa-based Superior Termite & Pest Control, said there has been a “huge increase” in 2018, especially in apartments with people consistently moving in and out.
“Just from our services alone compared to 10 years ago — from one bed bug call a month to now we’re doing bed bug treatments every day, not just calls,” Wisdom said.
Eastgate recently made local news after bed bugs were discovered in the lobby of a Department of Public Safety office. The office was closed July 12 for treatment and reopened July 18, with two extermination companies then performing inspections in the rest of the former mall’s more than 1 million square feet.
Dave Ortenburger, business manager for the Eastgate property, on Friday said inspections were concluded and that he had met with tenants. He said he couldn’t comment yet on whether bed bugs were found anywhere else until he meets with the property’s owner next week.
Ortenburger did say it’s “business as usual” and everyone will still be open next week.
“The third-party exterminators, on a scale of 1 to 10, rated our issue as a 1,” Ortenburger said.
Four tenants at Eastgate offer retail food. An online check of the Tulsa Health Department’s inspections from 2017 and 2018 didn’t yield reports of bed bugs at the businesses.
In an email exchange, the Tulsa Health Department noted bed bugs aren’t considered a public health nuisance because the bugs aren’t known to spread disease. The agency said it doesn’t typically maintain a database of bed bugs reports to compare with previous years, though it may receive some complaints.
“While bed bugs are not currently known to spread diseases, their bites often cause itchy skin welts and can lead to secondary infections of the skin and lymph glands when scratching and irritation allows introduction of bacteria from the skin surface,” according to the Tulsa Health Department’s fact sheet. “Bed bug bites can cause an allergic reaction or digestive upset. Persons coping with bed bug infestations may also experience anxiety, insomnia and possibly other nervous system disorders.”
The CDC says bed bugs are found around the world, traditionally being viewed as a problem in developing countries. However, bed bugs have been “spreading rapidly” in parts of the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom, as well as other areas of Europe.
“Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found,” the CDC states.
The Tulsa Health Department says people most often unknowingly carry bed bugs into their homes in bedding, clothing, furniture or luggage.
The agency recommends never bringing discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs or upholstered furniture into a home. When returning from a trip, put clothing in a hot dryer first and then wash them. Inspect luggage immediately.
Heat kills bed bugs. The agency recommends clothing be put in a dryer of at least 115 degrees for 30 minutes.
Wisdom, who has been with Superior Termite & Pest Control for eight years, said “inspect, inspect, inspect” to avoid bed bugs. Check over your motel room prior to opening bags or lying down.
He said a person in a house with bed bugs may unintentionally carry one on them to a restaurant. If a bed bug crawls off, it can find another customer and end up in a new home to infest.
A single bed bug can multiply every seven to 14 days, he said.
“That’s why bed bugs can take over a place in a short period of time,” Wisdom said.