While the bedbug problem in Ohio County has decreased significantly compared to a few years ago, Sanitarian Laughlin Johnson believes the bloodsuckers will never be eradicated until a new pesticide is created.
He noted not since DDT, which was banned in the United States in 1972, has a chemical been effective in nearly wiping out the parasites. Locally, with increased education and people being more vigilant about stopping the bugs, the situation in most high rises has improved.
''It's relatively quiet. We always have calls for information. ... I think it's better than it was. People are more diligent in getting help,'' said Johnson, who works at the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department.
In this March 30, 2011 photo, a bedbug is
displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington.
Johnson said the high rise apartment buildings, where most of the past complaints stemmed from, have pest control plans in place. They include inspections and monthly treatments in common areas and hallways.
''They're required to treat common areas on a regular basis,'' Johnson said.
Managers at some complexes will pay for a resident's first infestation treatment. But afterward, if the bugs come back many must pay for it on their own, he said. Some managers will pay for a treatment and let residents' pay them back in installments.
''Bedbugs are not a sign a person is not clean. People feel there is a stigma attached,'' Johnson noted.
While Johnson wished there was a new pesticide that could wipe out the bugs forever, he said for now hiring a professional exterminator still is the best treatment. Store-bought products are not strong enough, he said.
''It's quiet today, but Monday or Tuesday I could get two or three calls on places,'' he added.
While the bugs are not known to transmit diseases to people, the bites they leave can become infected from people continuously scratching their skin.
If residents suspects bed bugs are in their homes, they should call a pest control company for an inspection and give it a thorough cleaning, including scrubbing all furniture areas with a stiff brush.
The health department recommends steam cleaning carpet. Also recommended is washing bedding and garments in hot water of at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit and drying items in a machine dryer at the highest temperature for at least an hour.