Good Night! Sleep Tight. Don’t Let the…………

The Christian Health Center recently hosted a dinner and time of sharing with a diverse group of community members. We heard that night that the work of the Center is essential to the community but that the model we have chosen is not doing enough and is unsustainable. They are right. We see only a small fraction of our uninsured. Every day since then has been given to a search for some way to make the work of the Center profitable enough to permanently sustain a medical practitioner and his or her supportive staff. Lots of ideas have been looked at and to date the answer has not been found.

Frustrated but not discouraged, these are issues of both challenge and opportunity, I have been led write, and to make that writing available to any with interest. My goals are threefold. First, I hope to effectively communicate issues of medicine that are important to you. Second, and I have no apologies, I hope to bring you back, time and time again, to the Christian Health Center web site (under development) where you can be informed as you are coerced into friendship with and financial support for, the Center. And third, to have fun.

As unlikely as the call to write is my choice for a first subject: Bed Bugs

“Bed bugs? That’s crazy. Who cares anything about bed bugs?” That may seem an appropriate response but wait….read a bit and see if you don’t change your mind.

“They’re back“….a haunting phrase given to us by a little girl from a movie long passed. Filled with fear and loathing. A phrase appropriate to the bed bug. A disturbing resurgence in the incidence of bed bug infestations has been evident within the last decade, and these parasites seem blind to the demographics we so often call upon to define “the other guy” as our attempt to soothe personal anxieties. Their success belongs, in great part, to such things as a global economy, our mobile society, immigration, and a flourishing underground economy.

Most of us have never had an experience with the bed bug. It was a common pest in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. We witnessed their near eradication with the use of DDT during the 1940’s and 50’s. DDT is no longer available to us and these new and improved bugs have proven resistant to our modern pesticides and pest control methods. A current infestation generally means MUCH physical suffering and a complicated combination of interventions that can cost victims many thousands of dollars.

Throughout history, bed bugs, scientifically known as Cimex lectularious (cimex is Roman for bug and lectus is Latin for couch or bed), has been a persistent pest of humans. They have likely evolved from parasites of cave dwelling mammals such as bats and evidence supports a pervasive presence amongst human cave dwellers. As humans moved from caves to tents and houses bed bugs came with them. References to bed bugs can be found in Christian and Jewish ancient writings and in the records of colonial Americans. Fossilized bed bugs have been found while excavating a 3,550 year old site in Egypt. The Roman philosopher Pliny wrote in 77 AD that bed bugs could heal snakebites, earaches and other physical ailments.

They were first introduced to the Americas by early colonists and records speak of severe problems in the colonies and Canada. They were ever present in old sailing vessels. In the early 20th century, rare was an individual that had never seen or had not been bitten by a bed bug. At that time at least 1 in 3 households in some cities was infested.

The bed bug prefers the environment that is the human in bed, covered with sheets and blankets. This combination provides the warmth and higher carbon dioxide levels that these beasts flourish in. They typically feed at night and our blood is their sustenance. We cannot feel its bite (really a piercing) as their saliva is active as both anticoagulant and anesthetic. It takes the bed bug 3-15 minutes to complete its meal. A feeding will increase its weight 150-200% if an adult and up to 600% if less mature. They eat a meal every 3-5 days but an adult can live more than 1 year without a meal….oops. That’s bad news for any of us that thinks living away from home a few days will end his suffering. Though their preferred fare is human blood, in a pinch they will settle for rodents, bats, birds and household pets.

Once bitten, one third of us will develop an intensely itchy and visibly obvious rash. Two thirds of us will not, and may never know they sustain, help flourish, and disseminate cimex lectularius. For those that itch, scratching can hardly be restrained. With scratching comes a breakdown of the integrity of the skin. With this breakdown comes a threat of secondary bacterial infections.

Though there is no proven direct transfer of disease through these bites, such bacterial greats as the well known MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) and the lesser known and more dangerous VRE (vancomycin resistant enterococcus) have been found in the pureed bodies of bed bugs in the laboratories of researchers. Put these facts together and you can begin to understand the concern of public health officials as we learn to live again with these not so friendly and deeply scorned bedfellows.

So comes the questions:

“Where are they?”

“How can I protect myself from infestation?”

“If infested, how can I be rid of them?”

Enough writing and reading for now. Let’s continue very soon. (English for :“We go talk laydahs”)

 

…….Bed Bugs bite

Wake up bright

In the morning light.

To do what’s right

With all your might.

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