PORTLAND -- They have ravaged New York, caused serious problems in Los Angeles, and now some believe bed bugs have started biting their way through the Pacific Northwest.
They can be almost invisible to the naked eye. Bed bugs are tiny insects that feast solely on human blood, more than doubling their weight with each feeding.
Rabia Yeaman said these tiny creatures have up-ended her life. "I didn't know they were real. I thought it was just a little children's rhyme like everybody else," recalled Yeaman of her first impressions of bed bugs.
But then she learned first-hand they were real. "I started to have what looked like bites and I really understand why," said Yeaman. Two years ago Yeaman discovered the bugs in her home. She had heard of bed bugs in motels, but never imagined she'd have to deal with them.
"I got them from a neighbor who got them traveling and was too afraid to tell," said Yeaman. It took six months of chemical treatments to kill the infestation. She held on to two of the dead bugs to educate others about what they look like and warn that they are here.
Mark Schmidt, with Sprague Pest Solutions, said the Portland area has seen a recent spike in bed bug infestations. "Portland has a significant issue in my opinion. It’s changed dramatically in the last two years," said Schmidt.
"Part of that, we think, is an influx from the Olympics and the amount of travel that came into the Northwest," Schmidt added.
He also said it’s not just a problem in multi-tenant housing or even single-family homes. "The next step for this problem will be things like movie theaters, maybe medical offices, places like the DMV," he said.
Schmidt even says work places are at risk. "They spread into the cubicles and set up shop."
Sprague often uses dogs to sniff out bed bugs because the insects often like to hide in tight places around zippers and seams. People can tell whether they have bedbugs by overturning their beds or dust ruffles and looking for damage or droppings on the mattress.
Multnomah County health officer Gary Oxman said because bed bugs are a not reportable condition the county has no accurate way of monitoring them. But he did not yet consider them a problem.
"The bugs don’t carry disease. We don’t consider it to be a major health threat at this point," said Oxman. He encouraged people to educate themselves about bedbugs. It just takes a couple to start an infestation.
After her experience with bed bugs, Yeaman set up a website detailing her six-month long ordeal.
Click here to see Yeaman's website, Bed Bugs Northwest.