The problem with bed bugs

Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

January 2, 2014

Bed bugs are typically the plague of the traveler or the transient, but they can end up bugging just about anyone, even in Sampson. In recent months, health officials said, a local hotel was found to have a bed bug problem. The hotel had signs of bed bugs in several rooms and there was a live bed bug discovered behind a headboard by a Health Department inspector.

The hotel has since been treated and the problem removed; however, the threat of finding one clinging to one’s luggage or in one’s bedroom is still a possibility. Even just a few months ago an infestation was found at the NYC Long Island City Department of Health’s office.

Perry Solice and Jason Royal, both with the Sampson County Health Department’s Environmental Health Division, say that any traveler can be exposed to bed bugs, and that there are precautions that one can take to prevent the spread and contamination of bed bugs, both in the public and private areas that are frequented.

“Bed bugs have become a larger problem over the last eight years,” stressed Royal. Bed bugs are starting to become a serious pest across the United States. Usually they are found in emerging countries; however, travelers are often unknowingly exposed to them in the cracks and crevices of a hotel or other form of temporary transient housing like homeless shelters.

“If you are in a hotel, and you think you have found evidence of bedbugs, you need to notify the hotel manager,” pointed out Solice. “The manager is supposed to call the Health Department.”

Once a problem has been located, the inspections department at the local health department will go to the hotel to determine if there is an issue.

“First we close off the rooms that are infected, and then the adjoining rooms,” said Solice. Rooms must be disinfected and cleaned up, he stressed.

“We need to see signs of cleaning and the exhaustion of the bed bugs,”Solice added. “The hotel has to take everything out of the rooms, from the carpet and the furniture, to the bed.”

If the bed bugs are in a hotel, a follow up phone call to the Health Department is at the discretion of the complainant, because the hotel is in charge of getting the bed bugs cleaned up and removed.

“It is important for people to follow up,” said Solice. He also noted that bed bugs are sometimes found in people’s homes, when mattresses are brought in from another home.

“In residential cases, often someone purchased a mattress that was used, or someone gave it to them,” Solice noted.“Mattresses are not supposed to be reused.”

In this case, he said, the bed bugs may not be the result of uncleanliness on the part of a homeowner,but rather a classic example of the bugs coming into a home as a hitchhiker.

“If this happens, the homeowner needs to get rid of the mattress and have that room treated,” Solice said.

Both Solice and Royal agree that the only way these bugs can be effectively removed is through professional treatment.

And they both cautioned about taking a used mattress off someone’s hands. “You think you know people,” Solice said, stressing that knowledge of a person is no guarantee that bed bugs aren’t infesting a mattress owned by that person. He stressed that anyone who is looking at a mattress, even one that comes from someone you know well, needs to be properly inspected before being transported to another location.

“The stitching around the mattress and that lip is the main place that bed bugs hide,” pointed out Royal as he talked about the need to inspect. “There may be black blood spots in those areas.” He said that there can still be signs of bed bugs even if there are not any bugs visible.

Whether in a home or a hotel, bed bugs need to be reported to the Health Department so measures can be taken immediately to rid the area of the pesky creatures.

“We usually only know about it when people call us,” Solice said, stressing, however, that their department does annual random inspections in the area, and bed bugs are on the list of items they look for.

Once found, there are steps that must be taken, the pair acknowledged. To be cleared of the bed bugs, the hotel is required to show that they have had a professional come in and exterminate, and the Heath Department will follow up and keep a record of the problem.

Solice says that travelers need to be particularly careful, and he and Royal stressed that strategic luggage and personal item placement in a hotel room can work to curb the possibility of infestation.

“I always take my clothes out of my suitcase and wash and dry everything when I get home,” said Solice. “I keep my clothes in my suitcase and I use a luggage stand.”

“I recommend that people don’t use the drawers in a hotel,” interjected Royal.

There are two main ways to treat bed bugs, said Solice and Royal. Luckily there are options out there to get treatment to eradicate bed bugs, one option is to spray for the bed bugs, and the other method is a heat treatment. Both methods should be completed by licensed pest control personnel.

Bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases, but they still create a place for secondary infection to set in when the red bites are scratched and irritated on the skin.

For more information on bed bugs visit

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at