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Unlike cockroaches, mosquitoes and filth flies, the primary bed bug species in the US, Cimex lectularius, does not pose a threat to public health. Living in bed bug infested conditions is tremendously stressful, and a small number of people experience an allergic reaction in response to bed bug bites, but bed bugs are one of the few bloodsucking insect species that do not spread disease. Because bed bugs do not pose a public health threat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public health agencies, do not track bed bug infestations. However, pest control companies throughout the US are claiming that bed bug infestations are becoming more frequent. In response to this increase, the pest control industry has started to focus more on bed bug prevention strategies, as opposed to just remedial management practices.

Many pest control professionals claim that bringing bed bug-infested used furniture into homes usually results in particularly extensive infestations. Infested used furniture accounts for a significant proportion of infestations in homes, and it is recommended that residents avoid used furniture entirely. It’s also not uncommon for bed bugs to hitchhike into homes from shared laundry facilities, such as laundromats and apartment laundry rooms.

One tenant, Rebecca Shaw, used her apartment building’s laundry room before it became known that the room was infested with bed bugs. After the bed bugs attached themselves to her clothing, they proliferated on her mattress, and within a few days, several bed bug harborages were found in her furniture cushions. As it happens, bed bugs are attracted to dirty clothing for the same reason that they are attracted to sleeping humans. Throughout the day, but especially while sleeping, humans expel volatile compounds that can be sensed by bed bugs. When using shared laundry facilities, dirty clothing should be kept in plastic bags until it is dumped into the washer, and drying clothes on high heat will kill any bed bugs that may be present on dirty clothing.

Do you take precautions to avoid bed bugs when using shared laundry facilities?