In light of the story from Ireland today, I wanted to check in on England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and so I looked through the BBC’s coverage of bed bugs over the past year.
On August 17th, 2006 the BBC reported that a residence for doctors and nurses in a hospital in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, was infested with bed bugs. The unit was not attached to the hospital, so patients and visitors, the article said, were not at risk. (However, you do have to consider where doctors and nurses might have picked up bed bugs. A hospital, perhaps? They had to catch them somewhere. But we shouldn’t jump to conclusions–perhaps someone moved in and brought them.) Anyway, I’d bet there are currently a number of doctors in Fermanagh who just discovered the hard way that bed bug bites don’t all look the same.
This article from the BBC from February 28th, 2007 is about bed bug infestations in student residence halls at the University of Exeter. Eight students reported bites (so it’s likely there were more, who did not feel bites, right?):
Bedbugs hit university students
A university is fumigating student accommodation after an infestation of bedbugs in halls of residence in Devon.
Pest control experts were called in to the University of Exeter accommodation after about eight students reported they had been bitten.
A treatment programme is under way in the affected rooms and nearby areas.
A university spokesman said the outbreak was not the result of poor hygiene and the bugs had probably been brought in on someone’s clothes.
Bedbugs feed on blood, but can survive for many months without food. Bites are usually no more than a nuisance, although some people can develop an allergic reaction.
This additional BBC report, also from last February, is about a school infested with what are thought to be fleas sounds suspicious to me. (Apparently it did to the person who wrote the headline, too. See below.) Fleas are fairly easy to detect. Bed bugs are not.
School closed in ‘flea’ outbreak
A Devon school has been closed while an outbreak of what is thought to be fleas is dealt with.
St Luke’s Science and Sports College, which was opened in Exeter last year, will be closed until Monday while the building is fumigated.
The college website said there was a limited minor infestation in some parts of the college by “some type of small biting insect”.
The college will be “completely cleansed” and open as normal on Monday.
“The numbers of students affected are very small,” said the site.
“Having taken advice from the NHS, we have been assured there is no risk to anyone’s health.”
College deputy head teacher Julie Phelan said the school was being closed because chemicals used in the fumigation needed time to settle, not because the insects were dangerous.
It could be some other cause, of course, for example, bird mites. But it could also have been bed bugs. Whatever it was, I hope it is gone.
On the other hand, some people have no clue about bed bugs. This CBBC article for kids about “bedbugs” was published only two years ago, but features information about dust mites and a photo of a dust mite, while referring to bedbugs repeatedly:
Kill bedbugs – live like a slob!
Not making your bed could keep you healthy, as scientists say it could stop bedbugs infesting your sheets.
The bugs live on skin cells and sweat that come off you while you sleep. They also release chemicals which cause asthma and other allergies.
But scientists reckon leaving your sheets unmade allows air to circulate, getting rid of the stuff the bugs eat.
The average bed could be home to up to 1.5 million house dust mites, which are less than a millimetre long.
The researchers are looking into ways to reduce the £700m spent treating illnesses caused by mites in the UK each year.
They will soon be putting ‘mite pockets’ in 36 people’s beds around Britain to count their numbers and see what else affects the tiny bugs.
New readers, substitute “dust mites” for bed bugs in that article, and it will be factual.
Dust mites are no picnic, but they seem easier to deal with than bed bugs. Encasements and steam seem to be the way to go.
I’ve sent the Beeb a complaint outlining the errors, and hopefully they will remove it or fix it soon.
Finally, also from the BBC archives, a general story about bed bugs, dated February 22, 2007.
But can someone tell me what’s going on in this photo from Richard Naylor of the University of Sheffield? No, please, do not tell me.