Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite (Even if They're Back With a Vengeance!)

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Amelia Harrison
had checked in late to the swanky hotel near London. A business
manager, she’d spent the day at a work conference and was exhausted.

But despite
this, she had a restless night – ‘at one point I remember feeling
something on my face but brushed it away sleepily,’ she says. ‘Thank
goodness I didn’t turn the light on.’

For when she
woke in the morning and pulled back the covers, she found a little
brown cockroach-like bug about the size of a ladybird on the sheets.

‘Something
made me lift the pillow and the sheet and I found the mattress crawling
with them,’ says Amelia. ‘I shuddered with horror – I knew immediately
what they were; bed bugs.’

She called
reception but says hotel staff had no idea what to do. ‘They sent
me to another room for a shower. I also had to take my luggage to
the room with me, no doubt spreading the infestation. It wasn’t
until Rentokil arrived two hours later and told the hotel my room
must be fumigated, together with the rooms above, below and either
side, that I felt I was starting to get any advice – though it was
hardly reassuring.

‘I had to throw
away some of my belongings and they took away the rest of my luggage
to fumigate it and told me to check my body for bites twice a day
for the next two weeks.

‘I had to go
shopping for clothes, makeup and underwear. It all happened in front
of other delegates and I felt humiliated.

‘That night,
after I’d checked into another hotel, the bites started to appear
on my face and neck. The following morning, hundreds of red lumps
that were sensitive to water turned into a rash – I looked like
I had acne. I had to leave the conference and went to my doctor
who prescribed a steroid cream to ease the inflammation.’

But Amelia’s
bites slowly worsened, becoming incredibly painful – especially
with any contact with water – and two days later they were large,
raised spots that looked like chicken pox.

‘I couldn’t
go to work for a week, I was so embarrassed,’ she recalls. ‘I felt
unclean, I didn’t know whether they’d given me a disease or laid
eggs in my hair. My boyfriend was paranoid that I would introduce
bed bugs to our home, even though Rentokil assured me there was
no risk.’

A year later
her face is still marked by tiny red scars.

Bed bugs are
a problem we tend to associate with the poor hygiene of yesteryear.
In the late 1880s, an estimated 75 per cent of households were affected,
but by the outbreak of World War II, that figure had dwindled to
25 per cent, thanks to the introduction of powerful insecticides.

However, it
seems they are returning with a vengeance – statistics from
London and the Midlands show that infestations increased three-fold
over the past decade.

It’s a global
problem; in New York last summer infestations reached epidemic levels,
affecting hundreds of apartment blocks and offices including Time
Warner, Saatchi & Saatchi and retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.

Resistance
to insecticides and the increase in international travel are chiefly
to blame, say experts – significantly, there are corridors of infestation
that radiate out from airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick.

There are other
factors, says bed-bug extermination expert David Cain.

Bed bugs spread
on clothes, bags and in furniture when it is moved – ‘anywhere that
people exist, particularly where they sit or lie down’.

The rise in
weekend markets is also to blame, says Ian Burgess, director of
the British Medical Entomology Centre in Cambridge.

Read
the rest of the article

October
6, 2010

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