Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Ted St. Amand has two words of advice if the bed bugs start to bite: Don’t panic.
“If you’ve got it, you’re not alone,” said St. Amand, owner of Maine-based Atlantic Pest Solutions, during an informational seminar Wednesday at the Derry Municipal Center. “You just have to take a breath and think about how you’re going to minimize the problem.”
And Greater Derry Public Health Network Coordinator Garrett Simonsen said a cool head is especially important for the health-care workers invited to Wednesday’s discussion who might come in contact with actual bedbugs or questions about the pests on the job.
“I wanted to focus on providing this for social services and health-care providers because I really believe they are an essential public information extension,” Simonsen said. “They need to know how to help others and to protect themselves.”
And that’s just the kind of information that Parkland Medical Center nurse Peg Pedone was hoping to arm herself with Wednesday.
“I work in the ER and we see all types of people and you have to deal with them, but you also want to protect everyone else,” Pedone said after Wednesday’s event. “We want to be prepared.”
Diane McNealy, Parkland’s director of environmental services, said the hospital’s pest management company recently told her to be on the lookout for bedbugs.
“We don’t have a problem now, but they told me that it’s just a matter of time, so we want to be proactive,” McNealy said.
And while St. Amand said bedbugs are not known to spread disease, they can still be traumatic for those with an infestation.
“Bedbugs have not been proven to be a vector for any disease or infection, but from a psychological perspective, this pest is No. 1 hands down,” he said.
Bedbugs are most often found in mattresses and box springs, but St. Amand said the insects can thrive behind headboards, in electrical outlets and even on textured ceilings.
“For the most part, think of bedbugs as being cryptic in nature,” he said. “They came from the caves and they love cracks and crevices that are about the thickness of your business card.”
If you travel, he said, be sure to check the sheets, mattresses, headboard and nightstand in your hotel room for actual bugs or the tell-tale fecal matter, cast shells or blood spots left behind by the pests.
And upon returning home, he said it’s important to check your clothing and luggage for bugs before storing things away, as adult bedbugs can live for up to a year without a “blood meal.”
“If you pick them up in a hotel, a theater or a friend’s house, you can put stuff away for weeks or months and the bedbugs will harbor there and once they are reintroduced, they will start to thrive again,” he said.
And if an infestation does break out at your home, St. Amand said the first call should be to a pest control specialist for a positive identification of the problem.
From there, St. Amand said there are a variety of things specialists can do to get rid of the bugs, from chemical treatments to the heat therapies his company specializes in.
“If you can expose bedbugs to temperatures of 122 degrees or greater, it’s instant death,” he said. “... Your dryer becomes your best friend.”
But St. Amand said the biggest thing that people can do to help minimize bedbug infestations is to stay informed.
“Education is key to be able to address this because the sooner people can identify the problem, the more options they have to arrest it before it spreads,” he said.