Canadian Occupational Safety

May/June 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 15 of 35

F E A T U R E 16 BED BUGS: THE ICK FACTOR Though small and rarely the chosen topic of conversation, bed bugs have been making big headlines lately when they've shown up in office buildings. Linda Johnson takes a closer look AFTER a suspected bed bug was found outside a courtroom in the John Sopinka Courthouse in Hamilton, Ont., in March 2015, court proceedings were soon moved to another, vacant room. That night, exterminators treated the affected area. The following weekend, a canine unit trained to detect bed bugs found an infestation in another courtroom, which also was immediately treated. Authorities said they would continue to monitor the courthouse to ensure the treatment was successful. "[Bed bugs] are in every urban environment now," Susan Harding- Cruz, manager of the vector borne disease program at Hamilton Public Health Services, said in an interview with the CBC. "The courthouse is no different than any other place." In the last two decades, there has been a significant resurgence of bed bugs worldwide. This comeback is likely due to several factors: the bugs' increasing resistance to commonly used discovery of an infestation can be mentally traumatic to the people who work and live nearby. Employers who find them in their workplace need to know what to do and understand their legal obligations. Bed bugs are a brown, oval insect about the size of an apple seed. They are wingless and cannot fly or jump. They insecticides; restriction of pesticides for environmental and safety concerns; and the growth of international travel. Still very rarely seen in the 1990s, bed bugs can now be found in almost any place where people sleep or sit. Bed bugs are not a safety issue, and they don't generally cause major physical health problems. However, the feed, usually at night, on human blood or, less commonly, animal blood. After biting, they become round and reddish. An adult bug will take repeated blood meals over several weeks. Female bugs lay 200 to 500 viable eggs, which are white and about one millimetre long. They prefer to lay eggs on surfaces such as fabrics, wood, behind pictures, in furniture, along the edges of baseboards and under floorboards, but the eggs can be found anywhere in an infested area. Bed bugs spend most of their time in hiding, living in cracks and crevices or in the seams of soft-surface materials, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture. HEALTH AND SAFETY EFFECTS OF BED BUGS Bed bug bites are painless, but they are itchy, leave red marks on the skin and can cause an allergic reaction. Frequent scratching may cause infection. However, while bed bugs do not produce serious physical health effects and do not transmit infectious diseases, they can certainly cause psychological distress. The task of dealing with bed bugs creates anxiety and stress, including sometimes financial stress. Moreover, having bed bugs often gives rise to embarrassment and shame, largely because the parasites are widely associated with poverty or poor personal hygiene. The stigma attached to anyone who is known to have bed bugs is still a huge problem, says Angela Keenan, zone lead, occupational health, safety and wellness at Halifax-based Nova Scotia Health Authority. "It can be a big concern for employees specifically, whether they're exposed or they have an infestation themselves. That's the challenge," she "It can be a big concern for employees specifically, whether they're exposed or they have an infestation themselves. That's the challenge. There is truly a psychological impact to some folks. It's the ick factor." Angela Keenan, zone lead, occupational health, safety and wellness at Nova Scotia Health Authority LIFE CYCLE OF A BED BUG Adults and all nymphal stages need to take blood meals from warm-blooded hosts, which are typically humans. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Eggs hatch in about 4-12 days into first instar nymphs, which must take a blood meal before molting to the next stage. The bugs will undergo five nymphal stages, each one requiring a blood meal before molting to the next stage, with the fifth stage molting into an adult. Nymphs and adults take about 5-10 minutes to obtain a full blood meal. Adults live 6-12 months and may survive for long periods of time without feeding.

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