A new survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), Fairfax, Va., and the University of Kentucky proves that there is a resurgence of bed bug infestations. According to the survey, 95 percent of respondents indicate that their pest management company has handled a bed bug problem in the past year. Prior to 2000, only 25 percent of respondents encountered bed bugs.

"The results of the '2010 Comprehensive Global Bed Bug Study' suggest that we are on the threshold of a bed bug pandemic, not just in the United States, but around the world," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA, in a news release. "Because bed bugs don't discriminate between rich and poor, don't have a preference for climate or environment, public awareness, education and vigilance are key in detecting and preventing bed bug infestations."

In the U.S., bed bugs are not just infesting homes and apartments, they're also in hotels, college dormitories, retail stores, office buildings, places of worship, hospitals, daycares, libraries and movie theaters. Bed bugs may be targeting these facilities directly, or employees and vendors may be bringing in the uninvited guests from home.

Bed bugs can be easy to spot: they are the size and color of an apple seed. But they are also nocturnal and elusive by hiding in baseboards, electrical switch plates, picture frames, cubicle dividers and upholstery.

Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood, but they don't need to eat every day Ñ in fact, bed bugs can survive for a year without feeding. After a meal, bed bugs will hide in secluded places for five to 10 days while they digest, mate and lay eggs. Female bed bugs will lay between one and five eggs a day and the eggs will hatch seven to 10 days later, quickly surmounting to a massive infestation.

There is a need for education on the proper handling of bed bug infestations, especially in the workplace, says Richard Cooper, co-author of "Bed Bug Handbook" and vice president of Bed Bug Central, Lawrenceville, N.J. Property managers don't understand the problem and don't think they're susceptible.

"Bed bugs travel on people's belongings," says Cooper. "When you have all these homes infested, it's inevitable that these people will take bed bugs to work and kids will take them to school."

If a customer encounters bed bugs, jan/san distributors can help by supplying literature and training for proper action if cleaning or maintenance staffs have pest management experience.

Vacuuming, followed by steam cleaning, can help eradicate bed bugs. Vacuuming with a crevice tool can remove accessible clusters of bugs found under desks, on chairs and even walls, says Cooper. However, vacuuming can't capture bugs hiding deep in cracks and crevices or dislodge eggs. Steam cleaning can penetrate seams of upholstery, cubicle dividers and desk crevices to kill bugs and destroy eggs. While steam can reach deeper areas, vacuuming is still crucial because it removes the physical evidence of bed bugs, says Cooper.

It's also important that cleaning personnel change out vacuum bags immediately after cleaning Ñ sealing them in plastic bags and discarding them in outside containers, says Cooper. In addition, if vacuums are stored onsite at the account, janitors should monitor the storage area as the vacuum itself can be a common residence for bed bugs.

Distributors can also supply pesticides, but it's important to do so cautiously, says Cooper. Many states have their own regulations regarding pesticides and if products supplied by a distributor are used improperly, the distributor could be held liable as a third party. In addition, it is difficult to eradicate bed bugs 100 percent, so distributors should never guarantee claims. To help identify suitable pesticides, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently compiling a list of products effective against bed bugs.

However, distributors can supply products to help detect and monitor the situation without cause for concern, such as intercepting devices designed to catch bed bugs while they move to feed.

Distributors can also supply niche products that help prevent cleaning workers and building occupants from spreading the problem into their own homes, including encasements to protect mattresses or dissolvable laundry bags to wash clothes that were worn in a compromised environment.

Bed bug infestations are not related to an environment's cleanliness, but it is easier to control the situation if an area is clean and kept free of clutter.

"In a commercial office, there are no beds or sofas, so bed bugs will make homes in things people store in and around work spaces such as boxes or tote bags, so it's important to minimize clutter," says Cooper.