Bed bugs in hotels and on cruise ships? What about my backpack?

Bed bugs in hotels and on cruise ships?

The questions come and go for hotel managers, cruise ship cabin stewards, even sporting goods store workers but the bugs themselves, stay behind. It seems that infestations of bed bugs, the hematophagous (bloodsucking) insects of urban legend-quality mania are here to stay. Experts agree, the only thing to do is prevent them from dropping by in the first place.

One scary thought about bed bugs is that they can infect you with a disease they may have picked up from the last person they took a bite out of.No, those people are thinking of a vocal member of whatever political party you don’t care for. In the U.S. that could be Sarah Palin for some or Keith Oberman for others.

An expert on bed bugs (not politics) Richard J Pollack PhD says no way;

“The bites can cause distress, a few people have allergic reactions, and scratching can lead to secondary infection, but bed bugs are not known to transmit infectious diseases to humans,” says Pollack. “You don’t have to worry about who the bed bug fed on earlier. You’re not going to get hepatitis B or C, malaria, or HIV.”

On the contrary, we can often be harmed more by trying to get rid of bed bugs in the first place.

“Many people, whether they think they have bed bugs or truly do, will attempt to apply insecticides in their homes and on their beds. They don’t know what they’re doing, they don’t read the labels, and they can overexpose themselves to something, which, if used properly, would pose minimal risk.” adds Pollack.

Bed bugs in hotels and on cruise ships
These are really icky creatures

Some people think bed bugs are caused by poor hygiene…like people that don’t bathe frequently are more apt to foster an environment good for bed bugs to thrive. Again, not so much says BadBedBugs.com;

“Finding bed bugs in your home has nothing to do with poor hygiene! It takes only one bed bug to hitch a ride on your clothing (furniture, suitcase, etc) and infest your residence. What’s worse is that they can live up to one year without drinking a drop of your blood.”

Others think bed bugs hitch a ride on luggage and wind up anywhere that luggage might go including cruise ships.

I talked to bed bug specialists from Avoid-A-Bug told this week at Cruise Shipping Miami, a week-long trade show where cruise line executives and buyers stop by to sample the wares of vendors looking to get their business. They say bed bugs are not a big problem on cruise lines and that hotels are much worse. Avoid-A-Bug uses bug-sniffing dogs to find them.

“Cost-effectively locating these elusive insects can be a challenge especially in large multi-room structures. Pest control professionals are realizing the time and cost savings of enlisting bed bug sniffing dogs to help conduct preliminary inspections.” said Bill Cowley of Cowleys Termite and Pest Control.

What has more of a bed bug problem than cruise ships and hotels?

Airlines.

British Airways grounded two jumbo jets earlier this month not because of unrest in the world, earthquakes or tsunami’s, because of an infestation of bed bugs so bad that one passenger was badly bitten on two separate occasions reports Time.

BedBugs.com has some tips to protect against bed bugs when flying. You, not the bed bugs. Bed bugs don’t fly. Bed bugs don’t really even run much.

The tips we probably won’t do include calling ahead to the airline and asking “What steps do you take to keep bed bugs out of the passenger areas?” Somehow I can’t imagine myself making that call. They also suggest personally inspecting the area your seat is in for signs of bed bugs. That one might be good on full flights. We’ve sure heard stranger ways to get that upgrade to first class.

That leaves us with backpacks and sporting equipment of all kinds.

Tips for backpackers include water-proofing your tent and keeping it sealed whenever possible, putting your shoes in bed bug-proof bags when not using them and killing any visible bed bugs with alcohol.

Gadling has been seriously (?) covering this topic for quite some time, providing video on how to find and attack them and also an informative video about the top cities for infestations.

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Photos courtesy BuzzKill Pest Control