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Don’t let the bedbugs bite

Excerpt from The Sunday Times: Sunday 25 Dec 2016 by Benson Ang

Bedbug populations have reportedly multiplied since the 1990s, according to the website BedBug Central, which tracks their spread, and the blood-sucking critters can now be found in almost every country and region.

Although the reason for their surge is unconfirmed, one contributing factor could be the rise of international travel, suggests a publication by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The parasites thrive in places with a frequent turnover of people, such as hotel rooms, airplanes and taxis.

In hotel rooms, bedbugs have been found not just on beds, but also on walls and in blankets and pillows, according to a New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene document.

The insects are a nasty inconvenience for travellers as they are notoriously difficult to eliminate.

On airplanes, bedbugs “hitchhiking” on a tourist’s luggage in a plane’s cargo hold have been known to hop onto other bags and lay eggs, exacerbating the problem.

Reports of infestations in homes, apartments, hotel rooms, hospitals and hostels in developed countries appear to be on the rise, says Dr Yew Yik Weng, a consultant at the National Skin Centre here.

Dr Sue-Ann Ho, a consultant at the National University Hospital’s division of dermatology, explains that most of the time, treatment is not required for bedbug bites.

“If the areas bitten are not scratched, they may resolve in a week or two,” she says, adding that topical steroids and antihistamines can help with the itch.

It is recommended, she adds, that victims consult a dermatologist for the bites, especially if they have many bites, and these develop into blisters or skin infections.

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