x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bugs are becoming a real concern

Experts say second-hand furniture, frequent travel, and ineffectual pesticides are to blame.

Pest control companies say bedbugs are a problem most victims do not even realise they have.
Pest control companies say bedbugs are a problem most victims do not even realise they have.

DUBAI // Michael Karam realised his home had a pest problem when his eight-year-old daughter caught a fever and bite marks were found all over her body.

Both were caused by a bedbug infestation at the US expatriate's villa in The Springs.

"I've been living here with my family for five years, always had an annual pest control contract, yet suddenly we were faced with a major bedbug problem," said Mr Karam.

"I called the pest control company and they said there were eggs everywhere."

Most medical researchers agree bedbugs are unlikely to pass on diseases but allergic reactions to their saliva may occur and scratching at bites can make you susceptible to secondary infection.

Tiny black marks on the walls in Mr Karam's villa, which did not seem like a big issue at the time, were actually signs the bloodsucking bugs were breeding.

Pest control companies say bedbugs are a problem most victims do not even realise they have.

Complaints of cockroaches are not uncommon but bedbugs are a real concern, said Elias Kanaan, president of Unimar Pest Control Services.

"The cycle of pests depends on hygiene, maintenance and movement of goods," he said. "The level of bedbugs is especially worrying."

Evidence of bedbugs in homes dates back thousands of years - as far as ancient Egypt - but in the past 10 years, the bugs have been resurgent in cities.

"The increase is due to many reasons, including the growth in traffic in and out of the country and the non-availability of efficient pesticides," said Dinesh Ramachandran, the technical director for National Pest Control in Dubai.

A 2007 study at the University of Kentucky supports his idea that the rapid rise is a result of increasing resistance to insecticides.

"We plan on bringing a new product in the coming months that is non-toxic," Mr Ramachandran said.

"The problem with most chemical treatments is that they do not kill the eggs due to a protective layer that is present around the eggs themselves."

He added that bedbugs are not confined to bedrooms - they also live in couches and soft furnishings.

Signs a home may be infested include bite marks on residents, the faint smell of coriander, which is given off by their nests, small blood stains on sheets and black faecal spots or eggs such as those Mr Karam found on his walls.

When he called in the experts, he thought his problem was solved.

"But I hurried to replace all the furniture we had to throw out before the problem was completely wiped out and that's where I went wrong - the pest control weren't done," he said.

The new furniture was immediately infested with newly formed cells.

Last month, when the Karam family went on holiday, Mr Karam stayed behind and threw out the new furniture, then waited until he got the all-clear from the specialists. "They could have come from anywhere," he said. "We have guests but I also travel a lot."

melshoush@thenational.ae