Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik December 03, 2012 - 10:23 am

Nunavik declares war on bed bugs

Regional health board rallies municipal leaders, tenants, property owners to eradicate bed bugs

Bed bugs are nasty little critters that love warmth and thrive on human blood. (FILE PHOTO)
Bed bugs are nasty little critters that love warmth and thrive on human blood. (FILE PHOTO)

Inuit know these nasty critters as qupirruut, while in English they’re called bed bugs.

No matter what you call them, Nunavik’s health board wants to snuff them out, in a plan that would see tenants, property owners and medical professionals working together.

Dr. Serge Déry, Nunavik’s director of public health, appeared before the Kativik Regional Government’s council meeting last week in Kuujjuaq to rally support for a fight against the migration of bed bugs to the North.

Déry said the bed bugs, whose bites can cause rashes, blisters and skin infections, aren’t “a real public health problem.”

But they are a nuisance — and one the health board wants to keep from spreading, Déry told Nunatsiaq News.

To help get rid of bed bugs in Nunavik, Déry wants KRG councillors on board because their municipalities look after sanitation in buildings.

Nunavik municipalities have the right to make sure that “owners of dwellings, buildings, other property, or any parts of these shall at all times maintain these in a sanitary state in accordance with the provisions of this by-law and shall not tolerate garbage, manure, filth or anything that is dirty or harmful to the public’s health, emits a foul odor, or disturbs any other persons.”

As part of the plan to see everyone pitching in the fight against bed bugs:

• tenants should keep their unit clean and notify the owners if there’s any suspicion of bed bugs, and then work with the owners to clean the unit and prepare it for an exterminator’s visit;

• owners must take the necessary steps to deal with the situation as soon as possible, by hiring an exterminator to disinfect the unit and providing the necessary equipment to clean the unit; and,

• health services will make the diagnosis of bed bugs, provide the appropriate treatment, offer recommendations on the control measures to be used, support individuals with special needs, and provide information to the public.

You can find bed bugs in beds and other warm, dark places, where they only surface occasionally to feed.

Adult bed bugs are reddish-brown, flat oval in shape, and have no wings.

Although they’re not even a quarter of an inch long, they can cause itchy marks and other irritations where they bite into the skin with two hollow feeding tubes: one tube injects saliva that makes the victim’s blood thinner and numbs the skin.

With the other tube, the bed bug sucks out blood, usually for about five minutes. After feeding, they turn dark red and become bloated.

Bed bugs, which only need to eat every five to 10 days, can live for up to a year.

They lay whitish, pear-shaped eggs about the size of a pinhead, and you can sometimes find clusters of 10 to 50 eggs in cracks and crevices.

The good news: bed bugs don’t like low temperatures, which cause them to go into hibernation and die.

To get rid of bed bugs, you can freeze, broil or poison them with pesticides — but everything affected must be thoroughly cleaned.

To guard against bed bugs when you’re travelling, inspect the headboard of the bed, look at the mattress and don’t leave your bag on the bed.

And when you get home, wash your clothes before bringing them into your bedroom and make sure no bed bugs travelled back with you in your bag.

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