WASHINGTON – A guy in Detroit – the No. 1 city in America for bedbug infestation – got so bugged early Sunday by the lingering problem in his apartment that he sprayed himself with alcohol to kill the pests.
But, later, when he lit a cigarette he nearly killed himself along with the bedbugs.
He’s recuperating from severe burns.
Not everyone plagued with bedbugs is as fortunate as this victim. It turns out the bedbug infestations spreading through major cities in America are actually killing people.
- Last month, an 89-year-old Minnesota woman’s only child was charged with killing her by suffocating her in a garbage bag after beating her with a sculpture and choking her didn’t work – all because their home was infested with bedbugs. Michael Theodore Gallagher, 62, is facing a single count of a single count of second-degree unpremeditated murder. The bedbugs have not been charged.
- Last April on Long Island a man set his rental car ablaze while trying to kill bedbugs inside the vehicle. Scott Kemery suffered first- and second-degree burns in the incident outside an Eastport, New York, supermarket. He, too, poured alcohol over the insects, then sat in the car and lit a cigarette, setting off the blaze.
- In February, a baby died and four young siblings were left in critical condition after they were accidentally exposed to bedbug fumigation chemicals at their western Canada home. Shazia Yarkhan’s sister was trying to kill bed bugs with a chemical brought from Pakistan, where the family had recently vacationed. Within hours of the fumigation taking place, all five children that were present in the home became seriously ill, with the youngest losing her life.
Tough to eradicate, people are improvising in their war on bedbugs. Since bedbugs drop dead at temperatures of 115 degrees Fahrenheit, victims are increasingly turning to heat as their favorite weapon.
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But, like rubbing alcohol, that brings other problems, say fire departments across the country. Recently, firefighters in Richmond, Virginia, introduced new rules to require exterminators who use heat to kill bedbugs to register annually with the department.
The bedbug fighters use propane or electric heaters to raise indoor temperatures to 135 degrees, which fire departments worry can kill more than bedbugs and have caused plastic objects to melt and sprinkler systems to be damaged.
The Richmond Fire Department has introduced a local ordinance that would require exterminators who use heat to kill bedbugs to register annually with the department. In addition, if combustible material isn’t removed before the treatment, the whole house can go up in smoke.
The pest-control company Terminix came out this week with its list of the top 15 cities in America – with Detroit winning the dishonor of No. 1, replacing Philadelphia, which dropped to No. 2.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in bedbugs since the 1990s, which has been influenced by increased international travel and infestations left untreated,” said Paul Curtis, manager of technical services at Terminix. “Most of the cities in our top 15 are big tourist and business destinations, making travelers even more at risk for encounters with bed bugs – whether it’s on the plane, at their hotel, in a movie theater or riding in a taxi. The name ‘bedbug’ is deceptive, as these pests can thrive just about anywhere.”
Bedbugs do like beds. They like Detroit and they like beds. But they can also be found in airplanes, daycare centers, schools, restaurants and, most of all, hotel rooms.
They’re hard to find because of their small, flat bodies. One surefire trick is to turn up the sheets on your bed at the corners to look for tiny black spots. With the prevalence of bedbugs in even expensive hotel rooms, it’s a good idea to do this as soon as you check in to your room. Take a close look in mattress seams. If you smell a musty odor or see small blood spots, pack your bags, call the bellboy and get your money back.
Bedbugs have developed resistance to most pesticides used in the U.S., explaining why people are driven to distraction – and even murder – by their presence.
The town of Bucyrus, Ohio, discovered over the New Year holiday an unusual bedbug problem that has officials scratching their heads, their legs, their arms and other body parts.
“Our ambulances, police cars and school buses transport people with bedbugs,” city law director Robert Ratliff said this week. He related how over the New Year’s holiday weekend EMS personnel on three separate occasions had to transport a person who was infested with bedbugs.
“We’re going to see a lot of costs in hidden ways,” he said. “At a certain level it becomes a mental health issue.”
And that is true.
Bedbugs are driving Americans crazy.
Older Americans remember a time when the country was virtually free of the pests. DDT killed them. But then DDT was banned. No other pesticide was as effective. And, despite the environmental fears DDT raised, it was relatively safe for humans.
The bedbug problem is now sweeping across America and is a particular problem for apartment dwellers who can kill them only to see them come back because the guy next door didn’t kill his.
Hotel and motel rooms are a big problem – and don’t think paying a big price will save you from getting eaten.
A California couple checked into a $400-a-night Central Park hotel room over the New Year holiday and discovered hundreds of bedbugs lurking beneath their mattress.
“It looked like black mud was jammed into the seam of the bed,” said Elgin Ozlen. “I lost it. They looked like they could hurt horses. It was a colony, a breeding ground.”
Ozlen posted video to YouTube of the skin-crawling sight that greeted him when he flipped the mattress inside the Astor on the Park hotel.
His girlfriend suffered about 75 bites and blemishes on her fingers, toes, arms and stomach from the ravenous bugs. Ozlen, of Long Beach, California, spent the first few hours of New Year’s Day searching for soothing ointment.
See astonishing video of a hotel guest exposing a massive bedbug infestation: