There have been many media reports about bed bugs showing up in movie theaters, offices, schools, retail stores amongst many other public environments. Everyone visits and travels to these public settings. Should you be scared to go to the movies? Should you be stripping your kids down every time they return home from school? Is the person who sits next to you at work a harbinger of evil?
The long and short is probably not. While these stories do circulate and it is true that all of these environments have been treated for bed bugs and one time or another, the chance that you encounter bed bugs in your average public place is extremely low. Are movie theaters dealing with the occasional report of bed bugs? Yes. Does every seat have bed bugs? Absolutely not. Are some offices finding the occasional bed bug? Sure. Is the person sitting next to you giving out bed bugs like people give out candy on Halloween? Probably not.
In addition to bed bugs being uncommon in public settings, remember that you would most likely have to take home multiple bed bugs to create a reproducing problem in your home. I agree that no one wants to be bitten or take any bed bugs home with them. That being said, in most instances a single bed bug cannot turn into a reproducing infestation in your home. Think of everything that would need to happen for you to take multiple bed bugs home with you from the office? Let’s say the person sitting next to you has a problem at home they are trying to figure out. They would have to bring bed bugs into the office on this bag or clothes. They would have to walk off while he’s sitting there. They would have to walk towards you. You would have to be sitting in the perfect place at the perfect time. They would then have to make it all the way home with you, walk off and make it all the way to your bed. Etc… so on and so forth….and all that would have to happen for multiple bed bugs.
The reality is that bed bugs are occasionally found in public settings and reproducing problems in these settings are rare. Additionally, people taking them home from these settings and creating a reproducing problem is thought to be even more rare.
If you’re still concerned or know that the person who sits next to you is handing out bed bugs like a cold during the winter months? I always recommend knowing what bed bugs look like and watch for unexplained bites. The fewer items you can take in and out of the office, school, theater, etc. will reduce the chance that bed bugs find them and hitch a ride home. You can always store those items in a large Tupperware container at home to reduce the chance if bed bugs are on them since bed bugs have a tough time climbing smooth plastic surfaces. Throwing your clothes into a hot, dry cycle will kill any bed bugs or eggs on them (make sure the clothes can withstand a hot, dry cycle). Lastly conduct regular inspections of your home and consider installing monitors to assist in detecting bed bugs as early on as possible.
The bottom line is that you probably take much larger risks every day of your life than encountering bed bugs in the retail stores you frequent. Can it happen…yes. In most settings is it something that I would be concerned about and prevent me from doing the things I love to do….absolutely not.