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Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Sara Cordova shows a photo of a bed bug which she found at her apartment complex, Park Place at City Center in Salt Lake City Tuesday, October 12, 2010.

SALT LAKE CITY — They come out at night, they want to suck your blood, and they share your bed. No, they're not vampires, they're bed bugs — and they're crawling all over Utah.

The Salt Lake Valley Health Department says there has been a spike in bed bug cases throughout the state over the past couple of years. "The increase in bed bug cases in Utah started in 2006-07, and I see no signs of the problem dying down," says Salt Lake Valley Health Department environmental administrator Diane Keay. "The bed bugs are still out there."

Based on their national treatment data, Orkin Pest Control Services reports that the Salt Lake area saw a 94 percent increase in bed bug treatments from 2008 to 2009. The city ranks No. 47 in the country as a bed bug hot spot, according to Orkin.

Adgreian Little says she realized her apartment was infested with the insects when she noticed her daughter had a rash.

"I didn't pay too much attention to it, because I thought that she was hot and that was the cause. But one day when she got up, I was scared to see that her back was almost entirely covered in hives," said Little, who lives in an apartment building on 300 East and 700 South. The doctor said the rash was caused by bedbugs and encouraged Little to go home and check her bed, couches and any places where her daughter rests.

Upon lifting the mattress, she found hundreds of bedbugs. She then pulled the bed away from the wall and found a hole between the wall and the carpet that was also filled with bedbugs.

About the size of an apple-seed, the bugs are big enough to be easily spotted, but they hide in the cracks of furniture, floors, and walls before they make their way to your mattress, making them difficult to detect. The heat that comes off the body when it lays down on a mattress sparks the pests into action — which is why they are only commonly active at night.

Utah is not the only place that has experienced a rise in bed bug outbreaks. A recent survey found that 1 in 4 hotel rooms nationwide have the pests.

Keay believes the uptick in bed bug problems in Utah may have something to do with the way we exterminate cockroaches. "Years ago, the response to cockroaches was to pull everything from the walls, strip everything down and spray insecticide. I believe that spray was helping to control the bed bug problem as well," Keay says. "What we are doing to treat cockroaches now, killing them using traps and/or bait, does not affect bed bugs."

Keay said bed bugs may also be building a resistance to the pesticides meant to kill them.

To avoid bed bug outbreaks in your home Keay suggests keeping personal items away from hotel beds when travelling. "When you get home, unpack outside if you have concerns about bed bugs and wash everything in hot water or put it through a hot dryer," she said. "When you have guests over, don't just pile things on the bed — try to find a place where you can hang things up."

Keay suggests that those with concerns about bed bugs visit the government websites: www.cdc.gov or www.epa.gov.

e-mail: khenriod@desnews.com, cskinner@desnews.com