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Ministry of Health

Bed Bugs

There has been a resurgence of bed bugs worldwide in the past several years. In B.C., the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver has been particularly hard hit. However, bed bugs have also been found in many buildings across British Columbia, including private homes, hotels, universities and residential care homes.

Bed bugs are small brownish, flattened parasites – about the size of an apple seed. They feed on the blood of humans, birds and other animals. Bed bugs do not live on their hosts, unlike lice or fleas, but visit them to feed, mostly at night. A bed bug bite is like a mosquito bite. It may result in a red, itchy bump, but many people have no reaction at all.

Bed bugs are very resilient and hard to eliminate. They cannot fly, but spread by "hitching rides" on clothing, purses and luggage. They also establish themselves in mattresses and bedding, furniture, cracks in walls and even electronics. The bugs often spread when people are moving or travelling.

Although bed bugs bite humans, the B.C. Ministry of Health and Health Canada have not traditionally classified bed bug infestations as a public health concern because the bugs have not been known to transfer disease. The health risk primarily comes from secondary infection and scarring. Getting rid of them can also be stressful.

Specific bed bug complaints and concerns are handled by B.C.’s health authorities. They work with local governments, healthcare providers, building owners, community groups and individuals to provide information and support in exterminating bed bugs. Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health have helpful information on bed bugs on their websites.

BC Housing has a bed bug eradication program for the subsidized housing it manages. For more information, please visit BC Housing’s bed bugs website.

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