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As if Out of a Michael Crichton Novel, Hotel Managers Must be Vigilant
in Fighting the Global Resurgence of Bedbugs and Watch for Signs of Infestation Daily

By Tom Joyce, York Daily Record, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 4, 2010--Daniel Johnson, manager of the Holiday Inn Conference Center in West Manchester, knows how to deal with bedbugs. Given the pesky insects' global resurgence during the past decade or so, he figures it's a requirement for every responsible hotel manager.

The problem, he said, is that you can't ensure they won't show up in your hotel, no matter how regularly and rigorously you clean. The key is catching them early. Even then, the procedure is like something out of a Michael Crichton novel.

First you close down the room they're in, Johnson said. Then you shut down the two rooms on either side of that room, and the rooms across the hall from it. If applicable, you also shut down the corresponding rooms on the floor above, just in case they've

gotten into the walls.

For the next two weeks, nobody enters those rooms except professional exterminators. In the meantime, the cleaning staff throws all the fabrics from that room into a dryer with the heat cranked up to scalding levels, then washes them, then cooks them in the dryer again.

You may end up ditching the mattress altogether.

Sure, it's a lot of trouble. But it's nothing when compared with the trouble of dealing with bedbugs if they make it past your quarantine zone.

"They're nasty little buggers," Johnson said.

Annoying as they may be, bedbugs aren't really a threat to humans, according to Chris Sanderson, environmental health specialist for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

They leave itchy little bumps

on their victims. But unlike other species of bloodsuckers such as mosquitoes and ticks, they don't spread any pathogens in the course of their feeding.

The Department of Health doesn't collect any data on bedbug infestations, Sanderson said. But anecdotal evidence suggests that they've made a comeback in Pennsylvania, as they have across the globe in recent years.

Why? Sanderson said two factors have probably played the largest roles.

The first was the banning of DDT -- an effective insecticide with the unfortunate side effect of being harmful to humans.

The second is the overall increase of travel, both domestic and international. Even if local hotel owners get rid of bedbugs, it's only a matter of time before they ride somebody's luggage back into town.

Johnson's assessment is the same. Unfortunately, he said, a new guest might carry them in any time.

The best that hotel staffers can do, he said, is be thorough about inspections. Maids know what to look for. The executive housekeeper follows up on the maids' work. As an added precaution, Johnson himself routinely goes into random rooms for a "white glove" inspection.

"It's a day-to-day thing," Johnson said.

About bedbugs

All members of the bedbug family feed on the blood of mammals or birds, according to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. A specific species, Cimex lectularius, feeds on humans.

Chris Sanderson, environmental health specialist for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said bedbugs leave itchy bites for essentially the same reason that mosquitoes do. In the process of acquiring blood, they inject an anti-coagulant with their saliva.

One distinguishing feature of bedbug bites is that they tend to occur in a row, Sanderson said.


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