“A bedbug plague is sweeping the United States and shows no signs of stopping.”
There’s nothing very unusual about this quote. You’ve probably seen similar statements made in the media. You might even agree that it fairly represents — more or less — your perception of the spread of bed bugs.
The word “plague” is, you have to admit, a bit sensational.
And that’s why it struck me as strange that, over the last few days, the same quote has been attributed to an unlikely source, the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The problem is, it’s doesn’t seem like precisely the kind of statement the EPA would make.
The Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control in the United States from the US Centers for Disease Control and the US Environmental Protection Agency expresses a similar thought, but in much less dramatic terms:
… the United States is one of many countries now experiencing an alarming resurgence in the population of bed bugs.
“An alarming resurgence” is definitely not good.
It gives me almost the same chills as a “plague,” but it’s not quite as dramatic. It’s less Biblical, for one thing. “Plague,” for me at least, conjures up images of the ground and sky covered in locusts. Or Bubonic Plague.
The “plague” statement attributed to the EPA appears to stem from an obvious mistake made in quoting a press release which was put out at the start of February by MidMos Solutions, which produces bed bug detection and control products.
(Disclosure: the MidMos product line includes BBAlert monitoring products, including the BBAlert Passive, designed by David Cain, who participates in our forums. Bedbugger carries ads for BBAlert products.)
The MidMos press release was entitled Best Tips For Bed Bug Protection:
PRLog (Press Release) – Feb 09, 2011 – NEW YORK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosted its second annual bed bug summit in Washington, D.C. on February 1-2, 2011. ‘A bug bed plague is sweeping the United States and shows no signs of stopping,’ say the pest experts at MidMos Solutions. MidMos insists the best ways to combat these pests are education and early detection.
Note that the “bed bug plague” quote itself comes from someone at MidMos. I don’t really have an issue with this. It’s strong language, but not unexpected from a bed bug-related product supplier putting out a press release about their bed bug detection and prevention products and tips.
However, I am concerned when the media takes such a statement and apparently misattributes it to a quite different source, such as a US government agency.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “A bedbug plague is sweeping the United States and shows no signs of stopping.” The experts tell us that the best ways to combat these pests are education and early detection.
Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, the author of the Scripps story which was published yesterday morning, appears to reference the main points of the MidMos press release, without naming the firm or products mentioned in it. (I guess that’s what happens with press releases.)
Somehow the “plague” quote, mentioned in the same paragraph of the press release as the EPA’s recent bed bug summit, comes to be attributed to the EPA.
The thing about news agencies like Scripps is that their articles are disseminated very widely.
Friedmann’s story was first picked up from Scripps by The Seattle Times yesterday evening.
And only hours later (allowing for time zone differences) it was also picked up by the Australian national news agency, the Australian Associated Press. Changed slightly to refer to the recent bed bugs on British Airways story (which Bedbugger covered here), but still carrying Friedmann’s byline, it was published in The West Australian (“powered by Yahoo News”), Yahoo Total Travel, and 7 News Queensland (both dated today, March 1st).
This article states:
British Airways recently had to apologise to a woman passenger after she complained of being bitten by bedbugs on two flights, one Los Angeles-London flight and the other Bangalore-London.
Now the US Environmental Protection Agency has warned that “a bedbug plague is sweeping the United States and shows no signs of stopping”.
I expect this story — and the incorrect association of this quote with the EPA — will continue to make the rounds for some time, as these news agencies have a wide reach.
For what it’s worth, at least one source close to Bedbugger who was present reported finding the conversations and presentations at the EPA’s recent Bed Bug Summit “encouraging” overall. That kind of story seems to have a harder time going viral.