Few words, conjointed or otherwise, turn hoteliers mute as bedbugs. A pestilence that has been on the rise for the past couple of years, bedbugs have rebuffed attempts – and most hotels try very hard – at eradication. Today’s Washington post has a report on the vexing problems that not so-oddly enough has hit the two strongest hotel markets in the country the hardest, Hawaii and New York. As the article mentions, most experts are unsure of the precise reasons for the increase in the presence of the unwanted creatures but speculation centers around the two most probable causes – increased international travel and the reduction in widespread spraying of pesticides in response to consumer sensitivity to chemicals. Prior to the second world war, bedbug infestations were apparently commonplace. With extensive use of DDT in the post war period, they were virtually eliminated. However, DDT was banned in 1972. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) phased out two organophosphates that were very effective in killing bedbugs. The reason for the ban was their supposed “potential” danger to humans. That coupled with the fact that most people are none too happy about having chemicals sprayed around their room has helped the resilient insect make a comeback.
The good news is that the bugs do not transmit diseases and the welts, while unpleasant if not somewhat painful, can be treated fairly easily with topical emollients or corticosteroids and oral antihistamines. Unfortunately fraudulent lawsuits claiming damages – emotional and physical – have been a byproduct. The industry has taken active steps to counter the problem – still in its early stages – but needs to do more including involving the EPA in the use of stronger compounds to combat what really is a nuisance rather than a health threat.