Farmington, New Mexico paper The Daily Times reports that the Days Inn which was recently in the news and where travelers claim to have been finding bed bugs at least since the summer of 2007 is now getting professional treatment.
The problem of bed bugs in New Mexico lodging, however, is not as easy to treat. According to the Daily Times:
Besides distress and disgust on the part of bite victims, it’s maddening because no regulations exist in New Mexico to ensure lodging establishments deal with the problem correctly.
The Department of Health has no bedbug-related regulations.
Because the biting insects don’t spread disease, New Mexico Environment Department is not involved, either.
Unless the business at which a customer was bitten is a member of New Mexico Lodging Association or Convention and Visitors Bureau in Farmington, the onus is on the bite victim to seek redress from hotel management.
The treatment by Albuquerque’s Ecolab is going floor by floor, since guests are still staying in the hotel. The hotel also replaced all the bedding and carpeting. And the hotel manager.
But make no mistake: bed bugs don’t come to hotels with bad managers. Bed bug infestations can happen in any hotel at any time, and so hotels need to have a plan for detecting bed bugs and treating them, before they get out of hand. They should not be waiting for guests to point the bed bugs out to them, since bed bugs are notoriously difficult to detect.
Similarly, the owners of hotels should not be assuming employees know about the problem: managers, cleaning and maintenance staff and others who work in hotels need to be trained on how to prevent and detect bed bugs, and on what is needed to treat them properly. They need ongoing professional advice from people who know bed bugs.
And, in addition, we should not assume all hotel owners know enough about the bed bug problem, or give a hoot about it. Government regulation serves the purpose of setting standards and enforcing them. I don’t want to get all big government on you, but personally, I don’t want to leave it up to chance as to whether my hotel management gives a darn about bed bugs or not.
People who suggest that the hotel industry will lose money and begin to regulate itself do not understand how long bed bugs can breed and bite people and continue to spread before even being seen by a hotel guest. In the case of this hotel, we have a pair of police officers this month, and a pair of couples who filed suit after being bitten by bed bugs in different rooms on different floors in the same Days Inn in summer 2007 according to another Daily Times article that has now gone offline.
How many people do you think were bitten by bed bugs in that hotel, and potentially brought them home, in the space of more than a year? I would guess many, but I would also suspect most of them did not see the bed bugs or complain about them.
The story of the Days Inn came to light two weeks ago when some local police officers found bed bugs in their hotel room and discovered there was no public body or official they could complain to. There was only the hotel manager.
Note to travelers: check whether your hotel is a member of the New Mexico Lodging Association, so you at least have someone to complain to about your hotel room’s bed bugs, until the laws in this state get better.
People of New Mexico, you might want to tell the Department of Health that infectious diseases aren’t the only health problems that can plague people; bed bugs cause plenty, from psychological distress and anxiety, bed bug bites and related skin problems, and other allergic reactions, to a lack of sleep, which researchers tell us may bring on a whole host of illnesses.
The use of money to pay for everything from extra laundry and plastic bags to pest control treatment which may get into the high thousands can also have implications for a person’s health, when someone on a budget has to choose between paying for medication and healthy food, or dealing with the extra costs related to bed bugs. People also sometimes resort to extreme and potentially dangerous measures to get rid of bed bugs, which can cause definite health problems too.
So, yes, bed bugs are a health problem. Even though they are not known to spread infectious diseases at this time.
I’d really like public officials who deny that bed bugs are a health problem to move into a hotel room infested with bed bugs, and determine first-hand whether they’re just a “nuisance,” as we’re so often told. I have a hunch they’d discover a list of negative health effects pretty quickly.