The Korea Herald


Around 30 bedbug infestations reported nationwide

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : Nov. 8, 2023 - 15:10

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A worker disinfects a subway train with high-temperature steam at a depot in Gwangju on Wednesday, as a preventive measure against the spread of bedbug infestations. (Yonhap) A worker disinfects a subway train with high-temperature steam at a depot in Gwangju on Wednesday, as a preventive measure against the spread of bedbug infestations. (Yonhap)

Around 30 recent suspected bedbug cases had been reported across the country as of Monday, according to a governmental task force dedicated to combating bedbugs.

Bedbug reports began to surge here in mid-September after a student was reportedly bitten by the insects in a dorm room at Keimyung University in Daegu.

Recently, bedbugs have increasingly appeared in public facilities nationwide such as hotels, other accommodations, public saunas and bathhouses. With just nine other reports received previously since 2014, the recent increase has been significant.

The government's joint countermeasures headquarters against bedbugs does not disclose publicly the specific regions and facilities where bedbugs have been discovered, since it could incur additional harm to those regions and facilities.

But in Seoul alone as many as 17 cases had been reported to district and health offices, as of Sunday. It further confirmed that 23 cases had been reported in Seoul as of Wednesday, adding six more cases.

While the latest upsurge is alarming, experts have urged greater attention and care concerning personal hygiene rather than being excessively afraid of bedbug infestations.

“Regarding fears of bedbugs that have been spreading nationwide recently, especially, there is a growing number of people trying to avoid public transportation due to increasing concerns that the parasitic insects would bite while using public transport,” Yang Young-cheol, a professor of human and environmental science and safety at Eulji University, said in an interview with YTN.

“However, the possibility of the spread of bedbugs through public transportation is very low. Buses and subways are not favorable environments for bedbugs since they are too bright and continue to move. Therefore, the public doesn’t need to fear. After going out, take off your coat and shake it off, then bedbugs will crawl out and fall,” Yang added.

The government's joint countermeasures headquarters against bedbugs also stressed that people should not worry excessively.

“We are aware of the seriousness at the national level and responding it hard to fight against bedbugs, so please believe us and continue your daily life comfortably.”

According to the KDCA's "Bedbug Response Plan," a combination of methods -- such as high-temperature steaming, the use of a dryer, vacuum cleaning and pesticides -- should be used simultaneously if bedbugs are found at home or in an accommodation facility.

When disposing of infested mattresses or other items, they must be treated with insecticide before being discarded to prevent spread. As bedbugs can move and lay eggs, the infested area should be checked again seven to 14 days after treatment.

Bedbugs were believed to be nearly eradicated by the 1970s following sweeping campaigns of trucks spraying dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, more commonly known as DDT, throughout South Korea.

Authorities assess that increased overseas travel following the post-pandemic lifting of travel restrictions may have led to the current outbreak of bedbugs in Korea.

Bedbugs do not transmit infectious diseases, but they feed on human blood mostly at night while people sleep, which can lead to symptoms such as skin rashes, severe itchiness or allergic reactions. The reddish-brown, wingless parasites usually hide during the day in places such as the seams of mattresses, inside the cracks or crevices in bed frames, behind wallpaper or among clutter around a bed.