Calhoun County, SC (WLTX) - Emergency crews in Calhoun County found out the hard way about how quickly bed bugs can spread.
"Unfortunately one of our trucks got contaminated," says Crystal Youmans, Assistant EMS Director for Calhoun County.
In November, they believed one of their ambulance trucks was contaminated by a patient they were treating, who had bed bugs in their home.
Youmans says once they found out about the infestation, they reached out to a local exterminator for help.
"They told us what we had to do, they treated it and then we moved back in after about four days of letting all of the stuff settle," says Youmans. "We replaced the furniture, the beds everything else."
She says this is a problem for EMS departments around the state.
Documents from a Freedom of Information Act request made by News 19 shows that Calhoun County EMS reached out to Beaufort County EMS and Horry County's fire department to see how they treated bed bug infestations.
Emails show that these counties recommended carrying minimal equipment into homes that are believed to have bed bug issues, as well as wrap patients in a cocoon in the ambulance to limit exposure.
"It's a really big issue and bed bugs are kind of hard to get rid of," says Mike McKoy, owner of Sandy Run Exterminating. "It takes three or four treatments to get rid of them."
McKoy has been working in extermination for more than 40 years. He says in the past five years, his company has seen more and more calls to treat bed bugs.
McKoy suggests that once people learn about a bed bug issue, they should contact a local exterminator and invest in ways to make sure it doesn't spread.
"It's important to cover the box springs with this encasement and the mattress with this encasement," says McKoy. "It's a zip cover that goes over it."
Youmans says they now use mattress covers in the rooms at the EMS to prevent future contaminations.
"We don't want our families as far as our EMS people to go home with it and take it to their families and we don't want to take it to anybody else," says Youmans. "I think it's going to be a growing problem that we are going to have to handle better."
The Calhoun County EMS had all of their ambulances treated and did not find any other bed bugs.