The Government of Santiago de Cuba Says It Has No Resources To Combat the Bedbug Epidemic

Some social media users sell insecticides to fight bedbugs. (Lázaro Javier Flores)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 March 2023 — Families in Santiago de Cuba must resort to home methods to fight bedbugs due to the lack of chemical insecticides to eliminate them, said biologist Mirtha Pérez Menzies in an interview with Sierra Maestra. Until now, the Government had remained silent about the proliferation of the plague in the province, which in recent weeks has invaded schools, hospitals and prisons.

According to the expert, who has studied the plague in the most infested areas, five years ago it was “rare” to receive reports of the presence of bedbugs in the province, but from 2016 the infestation began to grow and has recently caused the temporary closure of schools for fumigation.

Pérez Menzies believes that the proliferation of the pest is associated “with an increase in trips abroad” and the import of packages with clothes, backpacks or shoes, places where insects easily hide. The biologist pointed out that, according to an epidemiological survey, many of the affected families had imported packages that remained for days in airport warehouses, although she admitted that when visiting homes rented by international travelers they did not find the presence of the insect.

It was also found that some families had bought a handmade mattress and the filling was contaminated. “Sometimes, unscrupulous people make them with rags and other fabrics from the garbage dumps,” the biologist said.

Santiago de Cuba has been one of the provinces with the most health alerts in recent years. In the midst of the increase in COVID-19 infections in 2021, it faced an outbreak of scabies and another of lice, while in 2022 it registered record numbers of dengue fever cases. The authorities recognize that they do not have enough resources to deal with the diseases, so they spread quickly.

To eliminate bedbugs, the health units recommend that families place footwear, sheets, towels, curtains and any other product made of fabric in a nylon bag. Leave it closed for a while, according to the authorities, and the insects will be asphyxiated and die. Families should also remove cardboard boxes or any item that facilitates a hiding place.

Since high temperatures kill the insect, one option is to pour hot water with soap on the bed, mattresses, sofas and walls, which are then left to dry in the sun. Another alternative is to apply petroleum jelly on the legs of furniture to make it difficult for them to climb, and alcohol or any insecticide, but the biologist does not recommend using these products since the insects are resistant and adapt to chemical substances.

The expert in medical entomology explained that bedbugs reproduce in both clean and dirty places, because what they really need to survive is a host and hiding places. She recognized that they proliferate more easily in spaces with dirt.

This insect is also known as a bedbug in reference to its preferred habitat. They usually feed at night, attracted by the heat of the human body and animals. Pérez Menzies explained that its saliva has an anesthetic effect, so people do not feel discomfort when they are bitten.

Once they reach their habitat, the specialist added, they can go for a year and a half without feeding. In addition, they lay five to 10 eggs a day, 500 in their entire life.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.