A quality home is the foundation
of society & community

A quality home is the foundation of society & community

A Silent Invasion of Epidemic Proportions


Today, it’s being called an epidemic that is spreading in a pandemic across the United States, and the culprit is biting its way through our homes, hospitals, dorm rooms, movie theaters, hotels, airports, armed forces barracks, nursing homes, furniture rental stores, moving vans and apartments.

Almost completely eradicated in the 1950s this attacker has evolved a unique adaptive strategy to resist combatants and the invasion has been increasing rapidly in the United States since 2004. Scientists state the reason for this resurgence is that most of the resistance-associated genes functioning in the host body have morphed into a ubiquitous invader.

Outbreaks throughout the country and all over the world are reported. “One thing that’s not a factor is sanitation,” states entomologist, Dr. Ron Harrison. Blood feeding human ectoparasites that impact public health in many ways are considered one of the most difficult pests to control in buildings.

This invader has several names, and society is plagued by a massive resurgence of Cimex lectularius however, the most common name today and the most familiar to all of us is ‘Bed Bugs.’


Multi-unit housing provides a set of unique challenges in the prevention and control of the bed bugs. Because residents share the same building infrastructure, i.e. hallways, walls, ceilings, floors, and utility lines, Bed Bugs can easily move among different units in multifamily housing, thereby spreading quickly among folks who live in close proximity to each other. Multi-family units tend to have a considerable turnaround of residents over time, which increases the potential risk of infesting an entire complex. Eliminating Bed Bugs has created a significant financial investment since the outbreak and still is a huge cost for all landlords and all other organizations that serve the public. Victoir Wilder, Code Enforcement Officer at the Winnebago County Health Department states, “The RHA Staff collaboration with our office, Anderson Pest Control, and the RHA residents has been nothing short of professional. These efforts will make Winnebago County a more healthy and sanitary place to live.”


Bed Bugs do not discriminate and can provide both a physical and psychological discomfort to all of us. 97 percent of all the pest professionals In the U.S. have treated bed bugs in the past year according to the National Pest Management Association. Even though cleanliness and the highest of sanitary conditions can be in place in the home, the psychological burden of embarrassment, fear, worry, and distress may seem irrational to others are very real to RHA residents.

These invaders violate our most personal space our home and our bed. The discomfort, suffering and emotional impact following a Bed Bug infestation is a serious side effect that is often overlooked and effective remediation can be much more challenging. ActiveGuard cited a study of 474 individuals living in known bed bug infested homes found that the people exhibited sleeplessness (29%), emotional distress (22%), anxiety (20%), and stress (14%).

Knowledge and empowerment are a few of the RHA’s most formidable weapons. RHA educates all new residents in the Resident Orientation every month and has provided Bed Bug guideline awareness to all residents. Through the act of transparency, talking, sharing in conversations that ‘pest issues’ are safe to discuss, has helped take away some of the psychological discomfort and trauma.


Control of Bed Bugs is a complex procedure and requires the cooperation of all stakeholders involved in an infestation. The slightest infiltration entails a full quarantine to ensure 100 percent elimination. “The closely monitored, even distribution of heat is the only effective way to kill all life stages of insects in the area being treated,” states Owen Carter, RHA Director of Housing Operations. RHA has invested in thermal remediation equipment and staffing remediation specialists to combat the universal adversity. Heat remediation requires a unit to be heated to 110 degrees for 3 hours at a cost of $300 to $500 per unit. Treatment is done in a cloverleaf of units surrounding the initial unit identified.  Seven to ten days after the initial heat treat, the unit is re-inspected.  If the infestation is still found the process is repeated. If one pregnant female Bed Bug remains, it can lay up to 500 eggs and the infestation begins again in a domino effect.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is the fossilized remains of sea creatures, a natural non-toxic material known as diatoms and one of the most important uses is in the field of agriculture, as an insecticide and pesticide. DE works as a means for deterrence, prevention, and treatment. The particles of DE have microscopic razor-sharp edges easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. When a bed bug makes contact with the particles, they lacerate its exoskeleton. Once the exoskeleton is damaged, the DE absorbs the bug’s bodily fluids. Eventually, the pest dies of dehydration. DE is used at doorways of units to stop the infestation from spreading. RHA has made the use of this material part of their routine preventative measure in combating this epidemic. In addition, RHA has hosted numerous preventative measure training sessions with staff and residents. Some methods recommended include, but are not limited to, the use of 70% isopropyl alcohol and fabric dryer sheets as garment protection throughout a residential unit to minimize the exposure of infestation.


“WCHD acknowledges the work and effort that the Rockford Housing Authority has dedicated to the residents at Brewington Oaks Housing units and with the Bed Bug epidemic we have here in Winnebago County, the RHA Team has been in contact and worked with our office to ensure that the residents are aware and educated about the issues associated with Bed Bugs,” states Mr. Wilder. Bed Bugs can spread into other places either by active or passive dispersal ways. They feed on humans and other animals as well. Bed Bugs are time-tested, resilient environmental creatures that can go for up to a year without a meal in waiting and will reproduce quickly.

Active dispersal occurs when the Bed Bugs walk from one place to another. They are rapid crawlers, comparable in speed to an ant. Bed Bugs habitually crawl upward to hide in pictures, wall hangings, drapery pleats, ceiling moldings, and electrical lines.

Passive dispersal is the most significant way they spread to new locations. Bed Bugs can be transported in clothes, shoes, or furniture or luggage. According to the Archives of Dermatological Research, the global epidemic Bed Bug population is estimated to be increasing by 100% to 500 % annually. Continuing, “With Brewington Oaks slated to be demolished, and the residents to be relocated, it is extremely important that the resident’s units and belongings are free of any Bed Bugs prior to relocating. Along with the efforts of the RHA staff and the professionals from Anderson Pest Control, this relocation process has been able to be completed without the fear of spreading the bed bugs to any new units” concludes, Mr. Wilder. In a joint statement from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the EPA, economically, Bed Bug infestations are also a burden on society. Although the exact dollar amount is not known, the economic losses from health care, lost wages, lost revenue and reduced productivity is substantial. Drawing from continuous up to date research and evidence-based information is that forming a specific plan on how to deal with this obstacle will greatly increase the chance of successfully dealing with it when we actually encounter it. This solid and reliable scientific evidence base is the RHA plan Collaborative Strategy.


“The Rockford Housing Authority believes in a Collaborative Strategy for this pervading problem. This reflects a broad-based consensus of our community partners and stakeholders to provide ‘the Highest Best Good’ for all residents in our community,” states, Laura Snyder, CEO. RHA has adopted from the model of The Federal Collaborative Strategy on Bed Bugs. This was developed by the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup ‘to clarify the federal role in Bed Bug control and highlight ways that all levels of government, community, academia and private industry can work together to reduce Bed Bugs across the United States.’ The RHA strategy outlines the priority areas for Bed Bug control: Prevention, Surveillance and Integrated Pest Management [IPM], Resident Education, RHA Team and Community Communication. The RHA strategy also focuses on the importance of measuring the results of actions taken to control Bed Bugs in our community.

“We believe that this is the best strategy that will most appropriately deal with the situation our community is facing today”, reflects, Owen Carter, RHA Director of Housing Operations.


  1. National Geographic: “They’re Back: A Bed Bug History” https://www.history.com/news/theyre-back-a-bed-bug-history “Many American cities are plagued by the worldwide resurgence of bed bugs, pesky critters  with a history that dates back to ancient times.”
  2. ORKIN: Dr. Harrison. Orkin entomologist and Technical Services Director Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
  3. NATURE: “Bed bugs evolved unique adaptive strategy to resist pyrethroid insecticides.” https://www.nature.com/articles/srep01456
  4. Entomology, Ornithology & Herpetology: Current Research: https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/bed-bugs-epidemic-in-the-united-states.2161-0983.1000143.php?aid=40202
  5. Heat Treatment: By Dr. Raj Hulasare – Thermal Remediation® from TEMP-AIR This presentation discusses: Understanding responses of insect species and life stages to heat, heat distribution within a treated area and techniques necessary for gauging the effectiveness of commercial heat treatments as a viable alternative to Methyl Bromide.
  6. Entomology, Ornithology & Herpetology: “They rarely travel more than 8 feet to feed (CDC AND EPA, 2010) [6]. In general, active dispersal of bed bugs is usually limited and it is not the important way of bed bugs to spread and reach new hosts.”
  7. the Archives of Dermatological Research: “Bed bugs and possible transmission of human pathogens: a systematic review” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5007277/
  8. United States from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/21750
  9. KILL BED BUGS NATURALLY: Read more: https://pestkill.org/bed-bugs/diatomaceous-earth/ Read more: https://pestkill.org/bed-bugs/diatomaceous-earth/
  10. EPA: Where are the bed bugs? https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs#identify
  11. Collaborative Strategy on Bed Bugs: EPA

The Federal Bed Bug Workgroup developed the Collaborative Strategy on Bed Bugs https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/collaborative-strategy-bed-bugs

For the safety and comfort of all residents living in Rockford Housing Authority Units who suspect they may have bed bugs, please view the complete Rockford Housing Authority Bed Bug Policy and Bed Bug Heat Treatment Guide.