Avoid Hitchhiking Bed Bugs When Traveling

Wednesday, February 11th 2015, 9:11 pm
By: News 9, Robin Marsh

Don't let the bed bugs bite, isn't just a goodnight expression, it can prove to be true - especially for travelers. However, there are some steps you can take to avoid taking home an unwanted souvenir.

"We paid for the three rooms," said Michael Crawford, of Chicago.

Crawford works for Technology Solutions, Inc. and traveled to Oklahoma for work last fall. He booked several rooms for his crew at the Biltmore Hotel but says he didn't stay.

"The top blanket had blood spots on the top," he said. "We pulled it back to see what the linen looked like on the top of the bed and you can notice that the bugs were crawling on top of the bed."

He captured the first sign of these unwanted guests on video and showed it to the hotel manager.

"We shut that room down and we shut both rooms down on either side of it and we treat it several times," said Billie Sadorra with the Biltmore Hotel.

Sadorra said they get complaints about bed bugs from time to time and says they take every complaint seriously.

"People do bring things like that in, but the majority of it the people that call us and tell us that they think that's what's in the room, it's typically not that, but it doesn't stop us, we still shut that room down," Sadorra said. "We've been working closely with the health department."

Carmen Pando is a health inspector with the Oklahoma City County Health Department. She is assigned to the Biltmore and several other hotels here in the metro and says no hotel is immune to bed bugs.

"We've had a problem with bed bugs for a while now and it's all throughout the metro," she said. "We all know people travel a lot. They just come in when people bring them in; it's hard to prevent it."

In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association, in 2013, 75 percent of pest professionals treated for bed bugs in hotels, 21 percent on public transportation like trains, buses and taxis and two percent on planes.

"They're wonderful hitchhikers," said Debbie Bell with the OSU Extension Office. "Nowadays many people traveling all around the world will bring bed bugs from other countries and bring them into the United States, so they've kind of come back with a vengeance."

While most hotels do work to treat the problem, Debbie Bell with the OSU Extension office says you have to be vigilant and even play detective.

"If you're traveling by car, you might just leave your suitcases out in your car," she said. "If that's not possible, take the suitcases in and put them in the clean dry bathtub while you inspect the room."

Bell said bed bugs are visible, about the size of an apple seed and feed off of humans. She said once you enter your hotel room, take a magnifying glass and flashlight and start with pulling back the sheets and covers to inspect the mattress for bugs and blood spots.

"They hide many, many places. They don't necessarily stay on beds, they can hide on bed frames on picture frames, boxed springs, night stands, under wallpaper," she said. "Inspect everything closely and if you don't see any residue, any live bugs any fecal matter or blood spots, you're probably good to go."

Crawford and his crew decided not to take a chance.

"We ended up leaving, we stayed outside in the trucks," Crawford said.

Bed bugs are not dangerous, they don't carry any fatal diseases and they can't kill you, but they are a nuisance. Reactions to being bitten vary from person to person. Some people have no reaction, while others may experience itchy, red welts or localized swelling within a day or two. The best way to kill them is with heat.

The NPMA offers the following prevention tips:

· Pull back hotel bed sheets and inspect the mattress seams for stains, spots or bugs. Also check behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs.

· Immediately notify management of any signs of bed bugs and ask for a new room. Ensure the new room is not adjacent and/or directly above/below the original room. Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets.

· Place luggage in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during the duration of the trip to keep bed bugs out.

· Upon returning home, inspect luggage before bringing it into the house and vacuum it thoroughly before putting it away.

· Dry all fabric items (even those that have not been worn) in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes to ensure that any bed bugs that may have made it that far are not placed into your drawers/closet.

Find out more on the National Pest Management Association's website