Panama City - A nuisance that was largely eradicated during World War II is making a come back: Blood sucking bed bugs are turning up all over the country.
They’re usually found hiding in bed mattresses. Called Cimicidae, but better known as "bed bugs," the small parasites feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. And since 1995, they've been spreading across the U.S. at near epidemic levels.
"A person calls once every two months, but it seems like lately I’ve had more calls -- At the end of 2010, the last two or three months of 2010 and January -- more than I’ve ever had," said Epidemiology Specialist Michael Fluharty.
A viewer alerted us to one of the latest reports at Stone Harbor Apartments on Panama City Beach.
Virginia Ballard, her daughter, and 5 year old grandson have lived at stone harbor for five months. She's concerned about reports of bed bugs in neighboring apartments.
"There’s a small child in the house, and I heard that's really serious (the bed bug situation), and I’ve heard that they travel from place to place and they're really hard to get rid of," said Ballard.
Stone Harbor Corporate officials say, "Any residents with a pest concern of any kind are dealt with expeditiously by a licensed pest control contractor."
They say only one apartment had bed bugs and they've handled the problem. The insect's bite causes skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms.
"It’s not only the bed bug bite itself, but it's us scratching and introducing bacteria that can cause further problems," said Fluharty.
But officials say you can start looking for bed bugs by just lifting your mattress.
"You find little blood stains -- and you can find them on sheets, especially if you have white sheets. It's a good idea if you have white sheets, so you can see what's going on," said Fluharty.
If you spot the signs, call an exterminator.
Health officials believe this current increase in bed bug infestations may be due to more people traveling to less developed countries, and more people buying second-hand furniture.