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Bed bug battle about to begin

By Blair Yankey - byankey@perutribune

If Debi Wallick has her way, Miami County will soon declare war on bed bugs. 

According to a recent study, combating the tiny, biting insects is among the top five health needs in Miami County, according to Wallick, Executive Director of the United Way of Miami County.

To fight the problem, a group of Miami County community impact partners are prepared to provide awareness, educational material, home assessments, bed bug mattresses covers and mattresses to families who are infested with the pests.

Funding for the initiative will be administered by the United Way of Miami County through a $5,273 grant, and collaborating partners including the Miami County Resource Network, the Miami County System of Care Governance Coalition, Purdue Extension, Miami County Health Department, St. Vincent De Paul, among other organizations.

And Wallick plans to visit the county commissioners on Monday to enlist their support.

“Most of those who are struggling are those who don’t know how to declutter their home,” Wallick said. “So, we thought if everyone has information on identifying a bed bug, how to treat it and who they need to call, it would help bring awareness and help resolve the issue.”

Bed bugs don’t have nests like ants or bees, but tend to hide in groups in places such mattresses, bed frames and headboards so they can bite people during the night, Wallick said. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the small, flat parasitic insects feed solely on the blood of sleeping people and animals. They’re reddish-brown in color, wingless, roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny – and can live several months without a blood meal. 

“Their slim, flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time,” the CDC said.

Bed bugs aren’t known to spread disease. But they can be an annoying because their bites eventually cause itching and loss of sleep, the CDC said. And some people have allergic reactions to the bite, which can be more dangerous. 

Local families might not even know they’re homes are infected, Wallick said.

Because they live solely on blood, having them in your home is not necessarily a sign of lack of cleanliness, she said. 

But, Wallick said the committee will work on educating the community on how to declutter and debug their homes in inexpensive ways.

Wallick said the committee currently has plans to distribute 1,250 flyers and brochures to health providers, hospital, hotels, as well as county and city partners and rental properties to help identify bed bugs and treat them.

She plans to share the initiative with city officials at their upcoming meeting in hopes that they’ll get on board. 

The group is also working with Mayor Gabe Greer to create policies and procedures on the disposal of items collected from homes treated with bed bugs, she said.