The Ministry of Health and Wellness is closely monitoring reported sightings of bed bugs mainly in public spaces in Barbados, and is asking householders to report any sightings on their premises to the Environmental Health Department.
Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kenneth George, told a media briefing today that while the Ministry had received reports of bed bug sightings at various institutions, only “a few” had been confirmed by the environmental health officers.
He stressed that bed bugs did not represent a public health challenge, since they did not transmit disease. “They are considered a nuisance or a pest. If bitten, there can be irritation and redness and in a few cases a rash, but no passage of disease from individual to individual.”
Noting that there has been an uptick in the presence of bed bugs worldwide, Dr. George cautioned residents to keep their surroundings clean and advised travellers, in particular, to pay attention and check mattresses and chairs in their hotel rooms where multiple people slept.
He explained that bed bugs were most often found in the crevices of beds and chairs and travelled from place to place on people’s clothing.
While the Edgar Cochrane Polyclinic at Wildey was closed on Wednesday because of a sighting, Dr. George said that the environmental health officers who checked the building were unable to confirm the presence of bugs. However, the Ministry took the precaution of closing the building for 24 hours and spraying with environmentally friendly, non-toxic insecticide.
Despite the precautionary closure, Dr. George said that he did not support the closure of departments because of sightings, since there was minimal risk to persons.
Chief Environmental Health Officer, Francina Bascombe, stressed the importance of persons seeking expert advice on how to eradicate bed bugs. She explained that the blood-sucking insects could live between six months and four years, and could go without a blood meal for up to six months.
Therefore, it was very important that premises were treated properly, she said, to prevent re-infestation.
The Environmental Health Department has advised members of the public who observe bed bugs on their premises to contact the Department at 536-3854.