I mentioned Windy City Mike recently as a “success story,” since he’s been bed bug free for some time, and even moved successfully without his bugs. His bed bug stories are very informative and well-written. Mike contacted me today with a question he’d like me to pose on the blog. It’s a really good question. And I know he’d appreciate your responses. (Remember, real names, real email addresses are optional when commenting. Remember also that your nickname does not have to include the word “bug.” Just a suggestion; you do what feels right, my buggin’ friends.)
I have to preface this by saying that lots of people who don’t suffer from bed bugs might write off the concern Mike’s going to describe as irrational paranoia. Yes, it is a kind of paranoia, and to some degree it’s irrational (in the sense that its out of proportion to the threat). But those of us who have (or had) bed bugs would probably understand it in a way that people cannot understand if they did not suffer months of itchy anguish, alienation from friends and family, the loss of some or all personal effects and furnishings, the great financial loss of that coupled with extermination bills and/or supplies, and perhaps even moving home. (This is why the Village Voice article was so un-helpful; it painted bed bug sufferers as a bunch of crazy paranoid people, without giving the details to account for that degree of paranoia.) In short, when I say Mike is describing a kind of paranoia, I think all Bedbuggers would agree that it’s one that is understandable in this situation. And one I’m sure many of us share, and some have mentioned here before. Mike’s questions get to the heart of the matter: statistically, to what degree is this anxiety rational, to what degree is it not a real concern? Emotionally and logistically, how do we go about traveling (and other activities) once we’ve been burned by bed bugs.
Here’s his letter:
I moved into a new apartment after my old apartment was sprayed in
September 2005. Since then, I’ve not seen bedbugs in my current apartment,
thank goodness; I only hope that trend continues. The thought of
bedbugs invading this new “safe” space — a space that I’ve really grown to
like — prompts feelings of deep horror in me.
Since my original infestation, I’ve not needed to travel — my job is
local, and my holiday trips have been on local commuter rail to family
in northeastern . However, I may find myself visiting western
(about 54 miles east of Buffalo — nearly 330 miles away
from NYC’s bedbug epidemic) in early August 2007, and this brings up the
spectre of domestic travel and hotel stays.
Most people nowadays seem to contract their infestations from hotel and
motel stays. As you might guess, this has made me absolutely dread the
thought of staying in any hotel or motel. However, I know that even if
I don’t end up traveling this August (I may end up having a conflict),
someday I will have to do just that: stay in a motel or hotel room. So
I need to figure out how I’m going to deal with this — from an
emotional, logistical, and statistical perspective.
While there is a good Ask Metafilter page about avoiding bedbugs while
in hotels (http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/44029), what’s presented
there isn’t enough information for me, and so I ask my fellow bedbug
sufferers and survivors …
(1) Emotionally, how have you dealt with the anxiety surrounding
possible re-infestation? How do you stop that from ruining your enjoyment of
whatever reason you have for your trip? How do you deal with being
concerned, post-trip, that you might have brought something back?
(2a) What steps have you taken to minimize the possibility of bringing
bedbugs home with you from a hotel stay — both in terms of (i)
research beforehand (I’m aware of the TripAdvisor and HotelChatter sidebar
links), (ii) conversation (if any) with the hotel or motel itself, (iii)
room examination upon arrival, and (iv) post-trip luggage examination?
Given that baby bedbugs can be almost invisible
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/lou_bugs_pix/324802634/), how can you have
confidence in self-examinations?
(2b) Are hotels the only “hot zones,” or are other places associated
with domestic travel troublesome (airports, airplanes, trains, etc.)?
(My inclination is to say that airports, airplanes, and trains are *not*
potential places to be infested, but I wonder.)
(2c) I’ve wondered whether or not actually being bitten in the room is
a litmus test for potential infestation. On one hand, it seems like
bedbugs would not pass up a meal (namely, us) in order to latch onto
luggage — which would mean that yes, if you wake up not having being
bitten, it’s safe to say your room wouldn’t be infested. On the other hand,
that almost seems like it might be too good to be true.
(3) Statistically, has anyone ever run across a statistic *from a
reliable source* such as “every 1 in 500 motel rooms is infested,” etc.?
Knowing what sort of odds I’m playing with would help out a great deal.
If I knew I only had a 0.2% chance of coming back with an infestation,
I could play those odds.
If my fellow bedbug sufferers and survivors have any input as to these
questions — either direct answers, or linkage to columns or sites
addressing the above — I would very much appreciate them.
My deep thanks