This story from Eyewitness News in Gastonia, North Carolina is about a woman named Patricia Starling who lived in a Super 8 motel with her two sons after they lost their home in a fire.
Starling said she went back the motel, captured some of the bugs and gave some to Gaston County health officials. Specialist Doc Thompson said they found three or four bed bugs in 20 of the rooms. He said the bugs can’t carry disease, but they can cause dermatitis. He said he advised the owner of the steps needed to get rid of the bugs and gave them 2 weeks to start with exterminations.
Officials “found bed bugs in 58 percent of the rooms available to daily rental.” I would venture that if they found 3-4 bed bugs in 20 rooms, even more may have infestations. PCOs tell us finding bed bugs in infested rooms is not that easy.
But that’s not the whole story.
Eyewitness News asked why the health department couldn’t just shut down the motel until the bugs are gone. Thompson said that a motel has to get a grade of 70 or less before they can shut it down. Even with the bed bugs, the Super 8 had a rating of 85. He said if they do not take steps to get rid of the bugs by next Thursday, then he can serve them with a notice of intent to suspend. Then after 30 days, if nothing has changed, the department can pull the motel’s permit and shut it down.
The hotel manager told journalists, “she has an exterminator who comes by once a month.”
Whatever routine treatments a building already gets won’t necessarily do it. I hope the hotel manager is getting good advice from a PCO who knows bed bugs, and that they’ll do everything they can to get rid of bed bugs quickly.
Once a month treatments are not likely to eliminate bed bugs. In my understanding, “the steps needed to get rid of bed bugs” include more frequent, aggressive treatment as well as ensuring infested furnishings are properly treated or discarded.
It is not clear to me whether even having bed bugs in all the rooms would constitute a grade below 70, worthy of shutting the hotel down, or if other violations would be needed to dip that number low enough. This is wrong. Bed bugs are a serious problem, even if they are not known to spread disease. Hotel guests who stay one night and port bed bugs home with them can bring home a problem that causes thousands of dollars of damage and months of suffering.
I am not litigation-crazy. I agree with some bed bug lawsuits and not others. But if someone stays in a hotel room known by a hotel to have bed bugs, and gets bitten or brings bed bugs home, I hope they’ll sue the pants off that company.
It is very disturbing that customers will apparently continue to rent the 20 bed bug-infested rooms. Not only is the hotel given two weeks to even begin treating for bed bugs, which is far too long, but it appears they can keep renting out those rooms.
If they don’t exist, new regulations should be put in place to prevent hotels from renting infested rooms.