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[OPINION] Impact of Bed Bug Infestations in Socially-Disadvantaged Communities on COVID-19 Fight

BY: Godwin Deku | OPINION |

Fast growing epidemics such as bed bug infestation have become a major global health concern. In a recent publication reviewing the history of bed bugs infestation in Africa (Doggett et al. 2018), bed bug infestation has been documented across many African nations including several West African countries.

In East Africa, Nakuru community in Kenya documented 4000 bed affected households. Infestations were reported across several states of Nigeria. Sierra Leone documented high bed bug infestations in mentally disabled homes as far back 2002.

In Ghana, the local media has several times reported on heavy bed bug infestation commonly observed in most Senior high schools of the country. Socio-economic factor is often mentioned in relation to bed bugs and it appears that people living in low income communities are easily predisposed to severe bed bug infestations as they cannot afford the cost of effective control.

 Among households in the country, we presented an Abstract publication at the recently held Ghana Science Association Biennial Conference in 2019 (Deku et al.) reporting severe bed bug infestation among households in Cape coast.

Health impacts of the infestation reported in this paper indicated that over 89% of the affected 205 households in 20 communities surveyed experiences severe bed bug bites every night following sleepless nights and sleeping outside to avoid bites. We collected over 5000 bed bugs from less than 50 household sleeping places. Generally, community bed bug infestation levels in Cape coast were high.

 To reduce the spread of the novel corona virus disease (COVID 19), advocating that household compulsorily stay home to break the chain of infection has become one of the major key interventions recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

When people stay home they reduce the tendency of contracting and spreading the viral disease.  However, severe bed bug infestation in a home is a likely demotivating incentive for households leaving in deprived communities, who have made up their minds to stay home.

A major public health problem about these insects is they render discomfort when present in human habitations due to the severe bites. Whilst most households sleep in the night to rest their bodies for the next daily activity, this is not so among bed bug affected communities.

As for these homes, households struggle to catch a sleep and had to endure the nuisance bites from this insect. Many of these households do not get enough sleep and rest due to the devastating effect of the insect in their rooms let alone during the day.

Affected households are likely to abandon their sleeping and resting places during the day when they are posed with numerous bites. Moreover, they are more likely to prefer spending more time outside their rooms to avoid bites than to subject themselves to severe bites during the day.

I am of the view that bed bug infestation is likely to threaten effectiveness of the ‘compulsory stay at home intervention’ among bed bug affected communities.  Community-based interventions on bed bugs control are also required to free households from bed bugs and motivate them to stay home in other to aid in the prevention of the new pandemic.

Source: Godwin Deku

(Final year Mphil Candidate-University of Cape Coast, Dept. of Conservation Biology and Entomology)

(Health Tutor at the Accra School of Hygiene)

(Environmental Health Practitioner)

(Specific Committee Member for Environmental Health of the Allied Health Professionals Council)


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Anderson Benson April 29, 2020 at 9:06 pm

This is a good work done and needs to be applauded. We have been struggling with this bed bugs for a long time.
You have done well.

Godwin deku May 2, 2020 at 4:32 pm

Thanks bro


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