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Owners of Farmington, New Mexico Hotel
Spending $63,000 to Zap Bed Bugs

By Cornelia de Bruin, The Daily Times, Farmington, N.M.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 15, 2008 - FARMINGTON -- An infestation by thousands of bugs about a quarter-inch long ultimately will cost owners of Days Inn $63,000.

"We are replacing everything," said Rez Chowdhury, who owns the bedbug-infested structure. "We've already ordered new carpet and bedding, and we're waiting for results of an investigation by Ecolab."

Rocky Jordan, the Ecolab employee who inspected Days Inn on Tuesday morning, said he has seen worse bedbug problems at other hotels, but added he found evidence of the pests.

"We recommended that we strip all the rooms where we found them and spray them, along with the rooms adjacent to them," Jordan said. "He said he wanted to do the entire hotel. They are taking all the measures we suggested."

The pest control company Ecolab is headquartered in Albuquerque. It charges nearly $500 to treat each room to ensure the insects' demise.

Jordan said the rooms will be stripped and sprayed, then inspected and sprayed a second time if the bugs still are evident.

"There's no problem on the ground

floor, so we will do everything on the second and third floor, then treat the ground floor," Chowdhury said. "We will close the hotel floor by floor. It's too late to do it any other way."

Based on calls from readers of The Daily Times after coverage of the most recent bedbug incident began in late September, the problem may go back two years.

That's about as long as it's been since national media first noted the resurgence of bedbugs in this country. Documented as verminous pests as long ago as author William Shakespeare's time, the insects are not linked to hygiene or cleanliness issues.

For some reason, resistant strains of bedbugs began infesting furniture, mattresses and lodging establishments about 18 months to two years ago. Some blame international travel for their spread.

One bright side in the picture is that the bugs do not spread disease.

"While certainly distressing and uncomfortable, you may be relieved to know that bed bugs are not known to carry disease and are not considered a public health threat," said Alfredo Vigil, M.D., secretary of New Mexico Department of Health in a response to state Senator William E. Sharer, R-San Juan, of Farmington.

Sharer wrote Vigil in February to report a second incidence of bedbug bites at Days Inn. He previously reported incidents in summer 2007.

Besides distress and disgust on the part of bite victims, it's maddening because no regulations exist in New Mexico to ensure lodging establishments deal with the problem correctly.

--The Department of Health has no bedbug-related regulations.

--Because the biting insects don't spread disease, New Mexico Environment Department is not involved, either.

Unless the business at which a customer was bitten is a member of New Mexico Lodging Association or Convention and Visitors Bureau in Farmington, the onus is on the bite victim to seek redress from hotel management.

Lack of response on behalf of soon-to-be-former manager Amish Patel and his wife, Nimisha Patel, focused the public spotlight on Days Inn on Sept. 30.

Coverage of a trio of Santa Fe Police officers' bedbug bites and frustrating search for help in reporting the incident began the process that is costing Chowdhury and Amnas Corporation, the hotel's owners, money and the Patels their employment.

"We are training a new manager, and Amish Patel will be out Nov. 10," Chowdhury said. "He will not be working for Days Inn."

Chowdhury apologized to the bite victims who came forward, and to the city of Farmington, which he said brings Amnas and Days Inn its business.

In the meantime he has the large task of renovating his property room by room, floor by floor.

"It's worth it," Chowdhury said. "When they remove the furniture and carpet, most of the problem is gone, but we want to be sure so we will treat each floor, come back and test in a week and do it again if we have to."

Cornelia de Bruin:


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