AMBLER, Pa. - With stay-at-home orders in place in most states, public health structural pests like bed bugs, roaches and rodents are proliferating because of increased accessibility to food sources. All of these contribute to worsening asthma conditions and related breathing complications, which may lead to more severe cases of COVID-19 for the 25 million asthmatics in the U.S.
Although pest control has been deemed an essential service by Homeland Security and the vast majority of states during the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns over maintaining social distancing and possible exposure to the coronavirus has significantly slowed, or stopped, treatments for these internal structural pests.
“The implementation of stay-at-home mandates has created a fertile breeding ground for bed bugs, roaches, and rodents. This is especially true for multi-occupant, assisted living, and hospitality properties,” said Joseph Latino, president of Allergy Technologies. “There is a need to strike the ‘right’ balance between preserving public health through preventive and focused pest control, while not causing undue exposure risk to clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Bed bugs require frequent blood meals to grow into adulthood and reproduce. Within several months one pregnant female can result in over 30,000 bed bugs. If left unaddressed, bed bugs will spread throughout a facility, affecting the lives of neighboring tenants in multi-occupant environments.
Bed bugs also prefer to feed while being undisturbed; for example, when people are sleeping or resting for extended periods on a couch, while watching TV or playing video games. Stay-at-home social behavior has provided plenty of opportunities for bed bugs to feed. Sadly, those affected by the coronavirus, who are too sick to get out of bed, provide the ideal bedbug victim. Resulting bites, when repeatedly scratched, can result in infections that further complicate the condition of the patient.
Hotels are also increasingly being repurposed as locations for the homeless, quarantine sites, and temporary housing for healthcare workers and emergency first responders. Bed bug introductions will undoubtedly rise substantially without implementing prevention and affecting timely treatments. While hotels are being returned to service and are undergoing sanitization, they should consider including bedbug detection, treatment and instituting preventive strategies. These measures are significantly easier to enact, less disruptive and less expensive while the hotel is unoccupied. Taking proactive steps now to treat and prevent bed bugs will create great savings down the road.
Rodents and Roaches
Rodent activity is on the uptick throughout the country. Increased food storage, food waste and delayed garbage removal provide ample food sources for these pests to grow quickly in number. National experts in the control of rodents note that, as quarantines continue and restaurants remain closed, rodent activity is likely to rise in homes, apartments, affordable housing and assisted living facilities.
In addition, roach infestations are on the rise in environments with poor sanitation. In just 3-4 months, a roach population can multiply by over 600 times, and will continue to expand exponentially without periodic pest control maintenance and proper cleaning procedures.
If pest management professionals are not being engaged to control these public health pests, residents are likely to resort to ‘do-it-yourself’ pest control, including the improper use of household chemicals, which are ineffective and often dangerous. “Many of these chemicals are highly flammable and can compromise those with breathing difficulties,” Latino added. “And some treatments may actually enhance the resistance of these pests to traditional chemical treatments, making treatment less effective and more time-consuming.”
Pest management professionals, using well-established COVID-19 hygiene guidelines, can implement prevention programs that will significantly reduce the problems caused by these public health pests.
Untreated pests can spread to infest entire buildings over several months, resulting in extensive and costly treatments; significant facility-wide disruption; and unnecessarily prolonged interactions between staff, residents and pest managers which is a problem in today’s environment. “Delaying treatment and the implementation of preventive programs has created an explosion of infestations, which dangerously increases the levels of allergens for residents subject to asthma and related allergies,” added Gus Carey, founder of Allergy Technologies. “Residents of these facilities, particularly in typically underserved affordable housing, should not have to suffer the health problems, psychological distress and disruptions caused by these pests.”
In trying to control the delicate balance between the short term needs of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and securing public safety through responsible pest control, the unintended hazards of deferring treatments for public health pests must be recognized. “Even in the short- and medium term, adopting preventive strategies now, using well-documented IPM-based protocols, will reduce the need for contact time between residents and pest management service providers by 50-65%,” Latino added.