It turns out the newscaster’s classic and so-tired opening to a bed bug story: “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” is only marginally more interesting when delivered in a different accent.
Nonetheless, I was interested to see this news report from Down Under, on Today Tonight (If the right video doesn’t load, click “Bed Bugs on the Increase” under Video Archives. And hurry — it may not last long.)
The video features families who encountered bed bugs (experiencing as many as 75-100 bed bug bites) in four-star hotels in Brisbane and Perth, including a man who inspected his luggage after one of these encounters found 40-60 bed bugs on his suitcase.
The people interviewed reported on a range of bed bug bite presentations (from small scabby bites to large wheals), and there was footage of some of the variations, and of (unfortunately) really badly bitten people.
The report also veers off into the related but lesser perils of dirty mattresses — fungi, dust and dirt — and a man demonstrates UV sanitation for those purposes. This is kind of a distraction, since bed bugs are really a different scenario, and can afflict even those with clean homes and brand new mattresses.
However, the key component of the report, for me, was seeing the famous medical entomologist Stephen Doggett, who wrote and revised the Bed Bug Code of Practice (you can download the Nov. 2007 second edition here).
He reports (and we’ve heard this statistic before) that bed bugs in Australia have increased 5000% since 1999.
Because Doggett’s first bed bug code of practice was published in 2005, we often think of Australia as being ahead of many countries in the game of dealing with bed bugs.
But an Australian friend’s comments recently made me wonder if Australians as a whole were just as clueless about bed bugs, and just as surprised when they encountered bed bugs, as we Americans are. My friend did not know bed bugs were something to be concerned about, didn’t seem to know of anyone who’d had them (“know” being the key word here).
“You Americans!” he said.
He says this a lot, in fact, and I often have to nod in agreement.
But in this case, he’s wrong. Bed bugs are, unfortunately, now as Australian as vegemite, Foster’s, Dame Edna, and Rupert Murdoch, and Aussies need to know they’re out there and how to avoid them at home and abroad, and how to get rid of them if need be.
(We’re with Stephen Doggett: get a professional in.)
Thanks to the Aussie reader who sent the link for this report!