Pregnant women in labour at Ndirande Health Centre in Blantyre are facing a double discomfort of childbirth labour and the high presence of bedbugs at the facility’s labour ward.
Blantyre District Health office has since confirmed a bedbug outbreak in the district.
Bedbugs are small, night-time, wingless insects that belong to the family of Cimicidae. They feed on human blood and other warm-blooded hosts. They are oval in shape and grow up to four to five mm long when fully grown. Their skin colour is rust brown to a deeper red brown.
The women we met in the ward on Wednesday said there are lots of mosquitoes but they are scared to use the mosquito nets because they have lots of bedbugs.
“We can’t use the nets despite having a lot of mosquitoes here. I’m afraid I may get other infections. There are new nets in the nurses’ office but we were told that they can’t give them to us because it’s us (patients) that brought in the bedbugs so it’s better for them to keep the nets for now,” she said.
District Health Officer (DHO) for Blantyre, Dr Medson Matchaya, while confirming the outbreak in Blantyre, said the facility recently received mosquito nets and its management is supposed to decide on when to use them.
He disclosed that his office has received a lot of complaints from the public including boarding schools about the existence of bedbugs.
“I’m sure it might have spread to more of our facilities just that it has not been brought to our attention yet. There is need for comprehensive spraying but our office currently does not have the resources to do that. We are calling on well-wishers to help us out,” he said.
Ministry of Health Spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe said the ministry has received reports of bedbug outbreaks in many districts.
“Bedbugs cause a lot of discomfort. Meanwhile there are no known diseases that bedbugs can spread but they can be a nuisance. Continued scratching may expose the skin to infections,” he said.
Chikumbe said bedbugs can be transferred from one place to another through materials like clothes and furniture, adding, “We would like to encourage community involvement whenever bedbugs strike. People should immediately contact the nearest health facility for advice.”
He further advised the public to put their belongings in the sun to dry and wash the things that are suspected to have bedbugs with hot water.
He added: “Bedbugs like to hide in cracks so it’s also important to ensure that all cracks are filled. Spraying is also another way of getting rid of them.”
CDC website says bedbugs are found across the globe from North and South America to Africa, Asia and Europe.
It says although their presence has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe.
Some information about bedbugs
Everyone is at risk of getting bedbugs when visiting an infected area. But those who travel frequently and share living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept have a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bedbug infestation.
- Bedbugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal.
- Bedbugs travel in the layers and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, beddings, furniture, and anywhere where they can hide. Most people do not realise they are transporting stowaway bedbugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.
- One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the noticeable bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body part while sleeping. These bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people. These signs include:
– The bedbugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
– Bedbugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
– Rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture— Source: CDC website
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